Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) delivered a passionate speech Wednesday detailing his and the country’s civil rights history ahead of the House’s vote on whether to make President Donald Trump the third president to be impeached in United States history.
In announcing his support for impeaching the president, Lewis reflected on his experiences in the capital during the civil rights movement, including the freedom rides, the March on Washington and the signing of the Voting Rights Act. The congressman described those experiences on the floor as joyous, hopeful and ones made by choice.
“But today, this day, we didn’t ask for this. This is a sad day. It is not a day of joy,” he said to a room full of lawmakers, who immediately went quiet when he started speaking.
“Our nation is founded on the principle that we do not have kings, we have presidents,” he continued. “And the Constitution is our compasses.”
Lewis, a strong Trump critic who is highly respected on both sides of the aisle, has been called the “conscience of the Congress” by his fellow Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). The Georgia congressman joined the calls for impeachment in September, saying at the time that the Trump administration has led him to fear that one day he’ll wake up and “our democracy will be gone.”
“When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, do something,” Lewis said Wednesday. “Our children and their children will ask us: ‘What did you do? What did you say?’”
The House will vote later Wednesday on whether to impeach Trump on two charges: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The former is for the president pressuring the Ukrainian government to investigate his political rivals in exchange for military aid, and the latter is for Trump’s stonewalling of Congress’ attempts to hear witness testimony and obtain documents related to the impeachment investigation.
The Democrat-controlled chamber will likely impeach the president in a party-line vote, which will send the case to the GOP-controlled Senate for a trial on whether to convict Trump on those charges.
“For some, this vote may be hard,” Lewis said. “But we have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.”
Lewis’s fellow Georgia congressman Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R) also made headlines during the House’s impeachment debate period when he argued that Trump is receiving less due process than when Jesus Christ was crucified. The civil rights hero’s speech also came after overt white supremacist Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) spent his given time defending the president ― who himself makes repeated racist remarks ― on the House floor.