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Rep. John Lewis’s Dissent on House Rules Changes

January 3, 2017
Press Release

Rep. John Lewis made this statement today in protest against the House Republican changes to the rules:

Mr. Speaker,  I want to thank my friend, not just my colleague, but my classmate.  We came to this Congress together in 1987.  I want to thank you for your leadership, for never giving up, or giving in, but for keeping the faith.

Now, I don’t come to well that often, but I come because I remember reading someplace that Benjamin Franklin, a founder of this nation, once said, "It is the FIRST responsibility of every citizen to question authority," and he made sure the right to dissent is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

So today, I rise to question the right of House Republicans to institute fines which may violate the First Amendment and have a chilling effect on members who disagree with the proceedings of this body.    When House leadership denied the will of the people to bring strong gun violence legislation to the floor, as a last resort, we staged a sit-in here in the Well to give voice to their mandate. 

As members of Congress, we have a sworn duty to speak up and speak out, if we do not believe the actions of this body represent the will of all Americans.  We should never ever give up the right to protest for what is right, what is good, and what is necessary.  We were elected to stand on the courage of our convictions.  We were not sent here to run and hide.  We must use our votes, our voices, and the power vested in us by the people of this nation to speak the truth, as we see it, regardless of the penalty. 

I am not afraid.  I am not afraid to be fined.  I have been fined before.  Many of us have been fined before.  During the 60s, many of us were arrested many times, beaten, left bloody and unconscious on the march from Selma to Montgomery.  But no Congress, nobody, and no committee has the power to tell us that we cannot stand and speak up and speak truth to power.  We have a right to dissent; we have a right to speak up for what is right.  Regardless, rule or no rule, we cannot -- and we will not---be silenced.  At the end of debate I'll offer a motion to strike the section that silences calls for gun violence prevention.