Politics

Houston U.S. Rep. Al Green Given Citation During Voting Rights Rally In Washington D.C.

Representatives Al Green and Ron Reynolds were arrested in Washington D.C. Tuesday.

Two Houston-area Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Al Green, were given citations and released for blocking traffic Tuesday during a voting rights protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a spokesperson for Green.

Green joined state legislators, pastors and others on the steps of the Supreme Court in support of two pieces of federal legislation to expand voting rights: the For The People Act, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 stripped by Shelby County v. Holder.

He was stopped by police during a prayer and given two warnings before being taken into custody, Green said. He was cited for obstruction, and released.

In an interview, Green said he supported efforts to make voting easier, including reforms in Harris County that helped lead to record turnout to the region. And he criticized a bill proposed by the Texas GOP which would tighten restrictions on voting and ban many of those reforms.

“We want to make sure that every person has equal access to the polls (and) make it easier for people to vote,” Green said. “There are some in the state of Texas who say that what they’re doing and passing these laws that I have some concern with, they’re saying that they’re making it easier for people to vote. But what I see them doing and saying is, ‘we want it to be easy, but not too easy for them to vote.'”

The congressman also called for a vote on lifting the Senate cloture rule, which requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. Eliminating the rule would require a simple majority to pass legislation.

Republicans most recently eliminated the rule in order to confirm two U.S. Supreme Court justices — Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats previously reduced the margin during the Obama administration to bypass Republican attempts to thwart the president’s judicial picks.

Now with control of both Congress and the White House, Green said Democrats should again eliminate the rule in order to pass voter protections.

“We cannot have power so that we can retain power,” Green said. “Our reason for having it can’t be so that we can have it perpetually. It’s fleeting, it’s ephemeral. And when you have it, you have to do what you know to be right for the people who have been left out, locked out and left behind.”

“This is our opportunity to right many wrongs,” Green added. “And if we don’t take this to the righteous extreme that we should, then I don’t think history will be kind to us.”

In a video posted to Twitter, Green can be seen singing “We Shall Overcome” in the middle of a street beside state Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City. An officer then places a green band around the congressman’s wrist, and walks him onto the sidewalk.

As the video ends, Reynolds can be seen holding his hands out as another officer approaches.

"When I think about the sacrifices that were made by those who came before me, it motivates me to not think about minor inconveniences," Reynolds said. "We’ve come a long way and I stand on their shoulders."

Reynolds and dozens of other Democratic members of the Texas Legislature have been in Washington D.C. for three weeks after they left the state to block GOP-backed voting legislation, which critics have called voter suppression.

The law would ban drive-thru and 24-hour voting, make mail-in voting more difficult, and give partisan poll watchers more authority at voting sites.

The Texas lawmakers have urged Congress to pass federal legislation, such as the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, in an effort to overrule proposed voting restrictions in Texas.

Green is the second Houston member of Congress to face legal repurcussions for civil disobedience in the past week. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee was arrested Thursday in front of the Hart Senate Office Building, where she was raising awareness for voting rights and protesting the proposed Texas GOP voting restrictions.

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