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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript - Supreme Court Decisions


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BLITZER: Joe Johns reporting. Thank you.

And Representative John Lewis of Georgia is with me here in the SITUATION ROOM. This is a significant decision by the Supreme Court today. You say it's awful. Why?

REP. JOHN LEWIS, (D) GEORGIA: It is awful. It's a sad day. I never thought that I would see the day when the United States Supreme Court would put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I marched across that bridge on bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama when people stood in unmovable lines, when people had to pass a so-called literacy test.

People were asked to count the number of bubbles in a bar soap, the number of jelly beans in a jar. My own mother, my own father, my grandparents could not register to vote simply because of the color of their skin.

BLITZER: But those five justices who said that was then, this is now. It's been 50 years. Times have changed, and basically, their argument is that all 50 states should be held to the same federal standards.

LEWIS: We have made a lot of progress, will come a (ph) distant. But the question of race is deeply embedded in the American society. And we cannot sweep it under a rug in some dark corner. The state of Alabama, the state Mississippi, the state of Georgia, 11 states that are old confederacies, there are other states, they selected it themselves.

They made a decision in a systematic deliberate way to make it hard, to make it difficult for African-American and other minority to participate in the Democratic process.

BLITZER: But there are other problems in some of the other states as well. The Chief Justice Roberts spoke about Massachusetts, for example, that there are serious problems as far as voting rights, in Massachusetts is concerned. Why shouldn't Massachusetts have the same standards as Alabama or Georgia?

LEWIS: When we passed the Voting Rights Act, at least the Congress passed that and President Johnson signed it into law --

BLITZER: And you were there.

LEWIS: I was there. I was there. He gave me one of the pens that he used to sign the Voting Rights Act. These states were covered by the law. Now, if we want to move to that point and cover other states, but even (INAUDIBLE) in New York and places in Alaska are covered, but if we want to move to that point and cover all 50 states, let's have that debate. But the serious violation of the right of people to participate is in the heart of the Deep South.

BLITZER: And that still exists in the Deep South, in Georgia, in your --

LEWIS: In the state of Georgia, my native state of Alabama, in Mississippi, and several other parts in the south, there are still problems, serious problems, why we continue to insist that we need the Voting Rights Act. We need section 4.

BLITZER: Where do you go from here? So, how do you fix this?

LEWIS: I think we need to meet with our leadership on the Democratic side, as well as on the Republican side and say let's do what we did in 2006. Let's reauthorize the act.

BLITZER: You have the votes in the House, for example? There's a Republican majority there.

LEWIS: Well, in 2006, we came together Republicans and Democrats, and we passed it. Only 33 members of the House voted against the reauthorization of the act. On the Senate side, not a single senator voted against the reauthorization of the act. And we can do it again.

BLITZER: And you think you can? In this current Congress?

LEWIS: We can and we must. The vote is powerful. It's the most powerful non-violent tool that we have in a Democratic society. We have to do it. We have an obligation to do it.

BLITZER: Because the Supreme Court said now they've thrown it back to Congress. It's up to Congress to decide.

LEWIS: But the people elected us and we should be responsible and responsive and do it.

BLITZER: Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

LEWIS: Thank you, sir.


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