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Georgia U.S Rep. John Lewis honored and remembered at funeral service in Atlanta

Former presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton eulogize civil rights icon at Ebenezer Baptist Church

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

ATLANTA (CFP) — Three former U.S. presidents and more than 50 U.S. House colleagues gathered in Atlanta Thursday to say a final farewell to U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who represented the city for more than 30 years in Congress.

From the pulpit of Ebeneezer Baptist Church, once pastored by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., former President Barack Obama called Lewis “perhaps [King’s] finest disciple.”

Casket of John Lewis in repose at Ebenezer Baptist Church (From Washington Post via YouTube)

Lewis’s life redeemed “that most American of ideas — the idea that any of us, ordinary people without rank or wealth or title or fame, can somehow point out the imperfections of this nation and come together and challenge the status quo and decide that it is within our power to remake this country that we love,” Obama said.

“He believed that in all of us there exists the capacity for great courage, and in all of us, there is a longing to do what’s right,” Obama said. “He knew that non-violent protest is patriotic, a way to raise public awareness and to put the spotlight on injustice and make the powers that be uncomfortable.”

“What a gift John Lewis was. We are all so lucky to have had him walk with us for a while and show us the way.”

Former President George W. Bush said Lewis “believed in the Lord, he believed in humanity, and he believed in America.”

“His lesson for us is that we must all keep ourselves to hearing the call of love, the call of service, and the call to sacrifice for others,” Bush said.

Bush noted that while he and Lewis often disagreed politically, “in the America John Lewis fought for, and the America I believe in, differences of opinion are inevitable elements and evidence of democracy in action.”

Joining Obama and Bush to speak at the funeral service were former President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who grew emotional when she presented his family with the flag that was flying over the Capitol on the night that Lewis died.

“When this flag flew there, it said good-bye. It waved good-bye to John, our friend, our mentor, our colleague, this beautiful man we had the privilege of serving with,” said Pelosi, who served with Lewis in Congress for 33 years.

“Every time he stood up to speak [in the House], we knew that he was going to take us to a higher place of our understanding, of what our responsibilities were and what our opportunities were,” Pelosi said. “When he spoke, people listened. When he led, people followed.”

Not attending Thursday’s event was President Donald Trump, whose impeachment Lewis had vigorously supported last year. Trump also did not join he crowds who paid tribute to Lewis when his casket was displayed at the U.S. Capitol.

The funeral was the culmination of nearly a week of events honoring Lewis, including a memorial service in his hometown of Troy, Alabama, and lying in state at both the Alabama and Georgia state capitols.

The crowd inside the church for the private service was limited due to coronavirus, and mourners wore masks. The service was broadcast on a television screen outside of Ebenezer, where crowds gathered in the summer heat.

Lewis, 80, died on July 24 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

During his long and illustrious life, Lewis, who grew up on a farm in rural Alabama during the Jim Crow era, had a first-hand presence at some of the most pivotal moments of American history.

In 1960, as a student at Fisk University, he participated in protests to desegregate lunch counters in Nashville, and, a year later, became of the original “freedom riders,” risking his life to desegregate buses in the South.

By 1963, he had risen to a leadership position in the civil rights movement, as president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and, at just 23, was the youngest person to address the historic March on Washington, led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

During the summer of 1964, he went to Mississippi to register black voters, part of the “Freedom Summer” to break the power of segregation in its most redoubtable citadel.

In 1965, baton-wielding state troopers fractured Lewis’s skull as as he tried to lead marchers over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, a shocking scene captured on national television that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act.

A campaign is now underway to rename the bridge for Lewis.

In 1968, he was in Los Angeles working for the presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy when Kennedy was gunned down after winning the California primary.

Lewis had eventually extended his activism into politics, winning a seat in the U.S. House in 1986 that he held for more than three decades, becoming known as the “conscience of Congress” — opposing military action, supporting gay rights, leading a sit-in for gun safety.

Through all the beatings and tragedies, and the twists and turns of political life, Lewis never wavered from the philosophy of non-violence — and never stopped advocating for equality. He made his last public appearance in June at the dedication of a “Black Lives Matter” mural in Washington, the latest incarnation of the cause to which he had dedicated his adult life.

In his eulogy, Obama exhorted the audience to honor Lewis’s legacy by working to “revitalize” the Voting Rights Act and fighting against restrictions on voting access.

“Even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their darndest to discourage people from voting, by closing polling locations and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision — even undermining the postal service in an election that’s going to be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don’t get sick,” he said.

Georgia Democrats have selected State Senator Nikema Williams to replace Lewis on the November ballot and take his place in Congress representing the 5th District, which includes much of the city of Atlanta and suburbs to the west and south.

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Texas Democrats’ virtual convention full of optimism about finally turning red to blue

Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi rally the Lone Star party faithful with predictions of fall success

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

AUSTIN (CFP) — A Democrat hasn’t carried Texas in a presidential race since 1976, won a Senate race since 1986, or won the governorship since 1988. Republicans hold majorities in both houses of the legislature and control every statewide partisan office.

But you wouldn’t know that from the tone at the week-long virtual Texas Democratic Convention that concluded on Saturday, where past woe was eclipsed by present optimism.

Whether that optimism is cockeyed or not will be decided in November after a political season completely disrupted by the coronavirus crisis.

Joe Biden gives virtual address to Texas Democratic Convention

“I think we have a real chance to turn [Texas] blue because of all of the work that you have done,” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said in his address to delegates. “We’re building the diverse coalition to win up and down the ballot in the fall.”

The key to turning Texas blue, according to Biden, will be Latino voters, who make up a quarter of the state’s registered voters.

Donald Trump‘s anti-Latino, anti-immigrant agenda has targeted Latinos, with dire consequences,” Biden said, pledging to introduce immigration reform on “day one” if he’s elected president.

In her address, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “Republicans in Washington know how strong and formidable our members and candidates are” which is why Republicans are “running for the exits” — a reference to the six GOP House members who are retiring in 2020.

“Know your power,” Pelosi said. “Your engagement in organizing today is more important than ever before.”

Republicans, of course, see such bravado from Democrats as wishful thinking. Responding to a debate during the convention between the two Democratic candidates in the U.S. Senate runoff, the Texas GOP chair, James Dickey, called it a “race to socialism, each vying to be the most leftist and most extreme.”

Biden, Dickey said, would lead Democrats “off a cliff” in November.

In 2016, Trump carried Texas by nine points, about 800,000 votes ahead of Hillary Clinton. That would be large margin to overturn in 2020, and, if as Biden says, Latino voters are the key, it is worth noting that Trump’s share of the Latino vote in 2016 nationally was comparable to what Republicans usually earn, despite his position in favor of tighter border controls.

Also, in Texas, about 30 percent of Latinos identify as Republican — higher than in any other state except Florida — and an analysis of polling in 2019 found that partisanship trumps immigration and other issues as a barometer of whether they are likely to shift allegiance.

However, the coronavirus crisis has pushed the entire election process into unpredictable territory, disrupting both conventional wisdom and conventional modes of campaigning — as witnessed by the fact that Texas Democrats opted for a virtual convention with speeches on Facebook, rather than gathering party activists together in a hall.

Texas Republicans, by contrast, are still planning to hold an in-person convention in Houston from July 16-18. Social distancing measures will be in place, although face masks will be optional.

In addition to the presidential race, Texas Democrats are also trying to defeat Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn and are targeting seven U.S. House seats, three where Republicans are retiring and four where Democrats are trying to unseat incumbents.

State Democrats also have hopes of flipping the nine seats in the Texas House they would need to win to take control for the first time in 18 years.

In the U.S. Senate race, the July 14 Democratic runoff pits MJ Hegar, 44, a former Air Force pilot who narrowly lost a House race in 2018, against State Senator Royce West, 67, one of Dallas’s leading African-American political figures who has served in the legislature since 1993.

Hegar, who has the endorsement of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, came in first during the first round of primary voting in May but was well short of a majority in the crowded field with 22 percent. West earned a runoff spot with just 15 percent of the vote.

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4 Southern U.S. House Democrats in Trump seats break with party on coronavirus vote

Georgia’s Lucy McBath is only Southern Democrat in a seat Trump carried to vote for $3 trillion spending bill

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Four of the five Southern Democrats trying to hold seats from U.S. House districts that President Donald Trump carried in 2016 have voted against a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package pushed through the House by Democratic leaders late Friday.

The lone Southern Democrat in a Trump seat who voted for the measure was U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, who represents a district in Atlanta’s near northwest suburbs. She came under immediate fire from her leading GOP opponent for supporting “her San Francisco buddy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in the vote.

Voting no were U.S. Reps. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, and Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger, both from Virginia.

Five other Democrats who in 2018 flipped Republican-held districts that Trump didn’t carry in 2016 voted for the measure, including Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida, Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, and Colin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher of Texas.

The measure, dubbed as the HEROES Act by its sponsors, passed the House on a mostly party-line vote of 208-199. It would provide nearly $1 billion to state, local and tribal governments that have seen their tax revenues plunge during the coronavirus shutdown, along with $100 billion for farmers who have faced market dislocations.

The measure would also provide another round of $1,200 stimulus payments to Americans, including undocumented immigrants; extend supplemental federal unemployment payments until January; forgive $10,000 in student loan debt for every borrower; provide money for election security; and inject $25 billion into the U.S. Postal Service.

The $3 trillion price tag for the package — along with the provisions on student loan debt, election security, and including undocumented immigrants in stimulus payments — have drawn strong opposition from Republican leaders in the Senate, who have pronounced the plan dead on arrival.

By voting against the bill, the Southern Democrats in Trump districts were trying to avoid being tagged with support for a doomed, partisan spending plan that could be weaponized by their Republican opponents in the fall.

Cunningham, who represents the 1st District in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, called the bill “Washington politics at its worst.”

“While South Carolina families, small business owners, and workers are struggling, now is not the time to advance a partisan wish list or refuse to come to the negotiating table,” Cunningham said in a statement. “At a time when our country is in real trouble, we should not be spending precious time on one-sided solutions that aren’t going anywhere.

Horn, who represents the 5th District in and around Oklahoma City, called the measure “a messaging bill” that lacked bi-partisan support and was “a disservice to the American people, especially during a time of crisis.”

“This is not the time for partisan gamesmanship, this is the time to find common ground and deliver help where it is needed most,” Horn said in a statement.  “In response to COVID-19, our relief efforts must be targeted, timely, and transparent. The HEROES Act does not meet those standards.”

Luria, who represents Virginia’s 2nd district in the Hampton Roads area, noted that the bill would double federal spending this year “and spending of this scale requires careful consideration and input from all members, not just one party.”

“Relief legislation must address the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as pave the path to economic recovery,” Luria said in a statement. “Unfortunately, there are many elements of the bill that are unrelated to addressing Americans’ most immediate needs associated with COVID-19, which distract from addressing our most urgent priorities during this pandemic.”

Spanberger, who represents the 7th District in and around Richmond, said some of her Democratic colleagues “have decided to use this package as an opportunity to make political statements and propose a bill that goes far beyond pandemic relief and has no chance at becoming law, further delaying the help so many need.”

“We must come together to build a targeted, timely relief package that avoids partisan posturing and instead prioritizes combating our nationwide public health emergency, addressing catastrophic unemployment rates, and protecting the security of the next generation,” Spanberger said in a statement.

After the vote, McBath released a statement in which she did not offer a detailed explanation for her support of the bill, beyond saying that she was “fighting” for more funding for hospitals, first responders and the unemployed.

“This pandemic has caused grief for thousands, financial difficulty for millions, and drastic changes to the lives of every American,” she said. “Families across the country agree that more must be done to protect the health and financial well-being of our loved ones.”

But her leading Republican opponent, Karen Handel, charged that McBath “voted with the far left of her party to approve a $3 trillion partisan spending spree on out-of-touch, liberal priorities.”

“Nancy Pelosi has a true and loyal friend in Lucy McBath,” Handel said in a statement posted on Twitter. “When faced with backing the Speaker’s extreme agenda or representing the interests of [her district], McBath chooses her San Francisco buddy every time.”

McBath unseated Handel in 2018 in the 6th District, which Trump narrowly carried in 2016. Handel will face four other GOP candidates in the June 9 primary for the right to take on McBath again in November.

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2 Southern Democrats named as House impeachment managers for Trump Senate trial

U.S. Reps. Val Demings of Florida and Sylvia Garcia of Texas among group of 7 managers

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Two Southern U.S. House Democrats — Val Demings of Florida and Sylvia Garcia of Texas — have been selected to present the case for impeaching President Donald Trump in his Senate trial, which begins next week.

The selections were announced Wednesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as the House approved a resolution to send over two articles of impeachment to the Senate accusing Trump of abusing his power and obstructing Congress.

At a news conference where she unveiled the seven impeachment managers, Pelosi said the “emphasis is on litigators, the emphasis is on comfort level in the courtroom, the emphasis is on making the strongest possible case to protect and defend our Constitution, to seek the truth for the American people.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveils impeachment managers with Sylvia Garcia at far left and Val Demings at far right. (From Washington Post Live)

Demings, 62, who represents an Orlando area district in the House, is the only non-lawyer among the managers. However, she has a background in law enforcement, serving 27 years as a police officer in Orlando, where she worked her way up to chief before retiring in 2011. She was elected to Congress in 2016.

In a statement, Demings said she was “honored to have the opportunity to help defend our republic in this incredible moment in history.”

“I hope that every American who believes in democracy will take a stand,” she said. “The president has been given an incredible responsibility and opportunity to serve the American people. Instead, he has abandoned his oath of office and the Constitution, choosing to put his interest before the national interest.”

Garcia, 69, who represents a Houston-based district, is one of just two freshmen House members selected as a manager.  She is a former municipal judge in Houston.

In a tweet, Garcia said she was “honored” to be named as a manager.

“The Constitution will be our guide,” she said. “We won’t waver in our commitment to democracy. And we’ll present the truth to the American people.”

The impeachment articles allege that Trump withheld military aide from Ukraine in an effort to pressure Ukrainian officials to launch investigations into a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, and then obstructed efforts by Congress to investigate those allegations.

The president has insisted that he did nothing improper in urging Ukraine to investigate possible corruption.

While the prospects for an impeachment conviction in the Republican-controlled Senate would be appear dim, Demings said she has “not written off the Senate.”

“Each senator still has the power to do the right thing,” she said in her statement. “I know that as each senator considers whether to side with justice or corruption, the voices of the American people will matter.”

The other impeachment managers are Adam Schiff of California, Jerry Nadler and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Zoe Lofgren of California, and Jason Crow of Colorado.

Schiff chairs the House Intelligence Committee, which took the lead in investigating the Ukrainian controversy, and Nadler chairs the House Judiciary Committee, which drew up the articles of impeachment. Crow joins Garcia as the only freshmen legislators among the group.

Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the Senate trial, which will operate under rules passed by the Senate. A two-thirds majority — 67 senators — is required to convict Trump and remove him from office, something that has never happened before in American history.

Trump is just the third president in history to be impeached by the House, following Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998; neither was convicted by the Senate. The House was preparing to impeach Richard Nixon before he resigned in 1974.

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Georgia U.S. Rep. John Lewis diagnosed with pancreatic cancer

Atlanta Democrat tells constituents, “I am going to fight it.”

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

ATLANTA (CFP) — U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the dean of Georgia’s congressional delegation and an icon of the civil rights movement, has been diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer, a disease which has a very low survival rate.

Lewis announced his cancer diagnosis in a news release from his office. He said the cancer was detected during a routine exam earlier in December.

“While I am clear-eyed about the prognosis, doctors have told me that recent medical advances have made this type of cancer treatable in many cases,” Lewis said. “So I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it.”

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia

Lewis said his cancer is Stage 4, which means that it is has spread to other organs outside the pancreas. The five-year survival rate for Stage 4 pancreatic cancer is just 3 percent, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Lewis said he plans to return to Washington and begin treatment while continuing to serve in Congress.

“I may miss a few votes during this period, but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon,” he said.

Lewis, 79, has represented the Atlanta-based 5th District since 1987, routinely winning re-election with little opposition from the Peach State’s most Democratic district.

During the 1960s, as student leader in the civil rights movement, Lewis was among the first Freedom Riders who desegregated interstate bus transportation, and he also helped coordinate the 1963 March on Washington.

In 1965, Lewis was beaten and seriously injured while leading a group of marchers in Selma, Alabama, an event that helped spur passage of the Voting Rights Act.

News of Lewis’s cancer diagnosis prompted a bipartisan outpouring of support on Twitter.

“John, know that generations of Americans have you in their thoughts & prayers as you face this fight,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Georgia GOP Rep. Doug Collins called Lewis “a hero to Georgians and all Americans, including me. My respect and prayers are with this fighter as he faces a new battle.”

“John has never backed down from a fight, and I know he will battle cancer with the same courage and toughness he has always demonstrated,”said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

Former President Barack Obama said “if there’s one thing I love about @RepJohnLewis, it’s his incomparable will to fight. I know he’s got a lot more of that left in him. Praying for you, my friend.”

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