House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La, has angered and disappointed members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) with his decision to not attend ceremonies next week in Selma, Alabama, marking the 50th anniversary of the historic 1965 civil rights march.
Scalise, The Hill reported,
said, "We've talked to them (CBC) about going. We're definitely going next year."
Scalise alienated CBC members in December when it was revealed that he once had spoken to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, in 2002, an event he called "a mistake I regret," The Hill noted.
Since then, it was discovered that Scalise had voted against resolutions apologizing for slavery and creating the Martin Luther King, Jr., birthday national holiday.
CBC Chairman Rep. G. K. Butterfield told Politico
he invited Scalise to the Selma event, which commemorates "Bloody Sunday," and resulted in passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a few months later.
The Montgomery Advertiser noted
that on March 7, former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, will join President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle and their daughters at the commemoration, along with at least 23 Republican members of Congress. In all, 95 members of Congress are expected to attend.
However, other GOP headers, such as Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., head of the House Republican Conference, will not be attending, The Hill noted.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said he was "disappointed" that Scalise would not attend, adding, "I think it would have been good for him to come to demonstrate, for optics more than anything else, his commitment to equality and that he has no racial hostilities," The Hill noted.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., commented to The Hill, "He has significant relationship-building (to do), especially with the black community. Anything that he can show that will paint him in a different light can only be positive for him."
CBC members hoped that the commemoration would encourage restoration of the voting Rights Act in 2015, after the Supreme Court struck down a provision requiring that certain areas with a history of suppressing minority voting rights must receive permission from the Justice Department to change voting laws. No action has since been taken, allowing some states to restrict voting rights, the Huffington Post reports.
Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., told The Hill, "I disagree with people who would go and use this solemn occasion to simply perform a photo-op and try to make political hay out of it, but then come back here and refuse to vote for the Voting Rights Act of 2015."
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