The country’s top elected Democrat came to Ferguson Monday to push the party’s efforts to expand voting rights across the country.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, are among hundreds of co-sponsors of two bills: one that sets new requirements for when states must get federal approval to change their voting or election laws, and another that reduces the amount of money in campaigns, including eliminating so-called "dark money" from unidentified donors.
Pelosi praised Clay for putting his name on the legislation quickly. She called it an important part of the party’s “For the People” agenda, which focuses on cleaner government, increasing wages and controlling the cost of health care. Cleaner government, she said, is crucial to the other two parts of the agenda.
“The confidence that people have when we say that we are going to have for the people an electoral agenda that removes obstacles or participation, that increases the voices of the grassroots, it gives people confidence that we can get it done, because the voices of the people will be heard,” she said.
Public pressure will be crucial to pushing the Republican-controlled Senate to vote on both measures, Pelosi said.
“I’m starting a new club called the ‘too-hot-to-handle’ club,” she said to laughter. “If they’re not going to pass it, tell us why.” She said the party plans to hold hearings around the country to make voters aware of the bills.
Clay said the new standards for voting-law changes are vital to making sure that people of color have the right to cast a ballot, and says he knows exactly why Republicans won’t allow a vote.
“They don’t want them to have a stake in their own government. Why is that? Because they want to keep things the same,” he said.
Pelosi and Clay spoke at the Urban League’s Ferguson Community Empowerment Center, which was built on the site of a QuikTrip that burned in the days after Michael Brown was fatally shot in 2014. Pelosi called it an honor, though sad, to be in Ferguson, but added she was happy to see “this phoenix rising from the ashes of what happened before to be a model to our country.”
Before that, the two visited the Lacy Clay Center for Children’s Health, which provides mental health treatment to low-income children, and the Fathers Support Center, which helps men be more involved parents, both in St. Louis. They then ate lunch with local political leaders at Cathy’s Kitchen in Ferguson.
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