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Rep. John Lewis On Need to Fill Supreme Court Vacancy

March 4, 2016
Press Release

Today Rep. John Lewis headlined a news conference with House and Senate leaders to encourage President Obama to announce his selection to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia and to demand that the Senate hold the required confirmation hearings.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he will not hold confirmation hearings while President Obama is in office.  If McConnell is successful in stalling confirmation hearings, it would be the longest lasting vacancy on the court in 150 years, since the Civil War.

Rep. Lewis joined Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN),  Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus G.K. Butterfield, and Rep. Shelia Jackson-Lee to give comments during the news conference.  The event was inspired by the letter and press releases drafted by Rep. Butterfield on behalf of the CBC decrying McConnell's tactics.  Rep. Lewis made these comments at the news conference.  (Text as written)  Today Kentucky civil rights leaders also sent a letter to McConnell urging him to hold confirmation hearings.

Thank you, Senator Reid.  I want to thank you, Sen. Schumer, my colleagues in the Senate, Rep. Butterfield and my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus for gathering us here today.

In truth, this news conference should not be necessary.  The Constitution clearly states that the President has, not only the power, but a duty and responsibility to fill seats on our federal courts. 

 It's a long hard road to the Supreme Court.  People place their lives in the balance.  They place their faith and their future in the hands of this government, hoping we will hear their cries and answer their call for justice. 

 It was a decision of the Supreme Court that ended the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956.  E.D. Nixon and  Dr. King's homes were both bombed.  Dr. King's wife, Coretta, and their little baby were in the home at the time.  80 boycott leaders were arrested and charged with conspiracy. Dr. King was fined and ordered to remain in jail for 385 days. 
In a city where law had been used to justify injustice, I'm not sure how many people believed the court would ever find in their favor.  But when the decision came down, the people were stunned.  One elderly woman was heard to say, "God Almighty spoke from Washington today." ...Those are the people Senate leaders deny today.  The ones who believe in our government. They have come so far, all the way to Washington.   They deserve to argue their cases before a government that is whole. 

We are on the verge of crisis in this nation because leaders have not listened to the voices of the people.  Instead they let ambition and partisan politics take the reins of our democracy.  We must do what is right.  We must act on the mandate of our Constitution.  We must do our job as legislators. 

The President must nominate a Supreme Court candidate, and the Senate must proceed with the confirmation process with an up or down vote.  That is our duty, and it must be done.  Thank you.

Press these links for photos and video of the news conference.

Letter to McConnell from KY Civil Rights Leaders and Release
Letter to McConnell from CBC Chair
CBC Chairman Release Re McConnell