By Alice Ollstein
Dozens of members of Congress, and many more Republicans than ever before, came to Selma this week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the infamous attack on voting rights protesters known as Bloody Sunday.
Some lawmakers told ThinkProgress the event highlighted the urgency of passing a currently languishing bill that would restore the full powers of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Others showed little interest in doing so.
On his way to the commemoration ceremony, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said it’s been “powerful” to hear stories from Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who helped lead the Selma march 50 years ago and was severely beaten by police. But when ThinkProgress asked if he supports Lewis’ voting rights bill, he replied, “I haven’t looked at it. Is there a Senate version?”
A Senate version was introduced several weeks ago, and currently has zero Republican sponsors.
Portman, who has advocated for cuts to Ohio’s early voting period and voted against the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, added before walking away: “This day is about more than just tweaks to the Voting Rights Act. This is about ensuring equal justice and learning from the lessons of the past.”
This year’s congressional delegation also included Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) — a vocal supporter of voter ID laws in South Carolina — and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), who has tried to pass laws to require proof of citizenship for voting, a policy found to disenfranchise eligible voters in other states.