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New Georgia senators to carry John Lewis’ influence with them

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The state’s two new Democratic U.S. senators are each private pals and admirers of Lewis.

Six months after his demise, the late civil rights chief and longtime Georgia congressman John Lewis will retain a palpable affect in Congress: The state’s two new Democratic U.S. senators — each private pals and admirers — promise to hold on his legacy.

Sen. Raphael Warnock was Lewis’ pastor and stood at his bedside earlier than Lewis died. Sen. Jon Ossoff, the Senate’s youngest present member, served as an intern in Lewis’ Washington workplace years in the past. Each have been sworn into workplace Wednesday.

Their victories have already caused important change. Warnock is Georgia’s first Black senator, and Ossoff is the primary Jewish senator from the state. Collectively, their election victories swung management of the Senate to Democrats.

Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who narrowly misplaced the nationally watched race for Georgia governor in 2018, mentioned in a press release to The Related Press that Warnock and Ossoff characterize Lewis’ legacy within the Senate “as champions of civil rights, human rights and voting rights.”

“Congressman Lewis is irreplaceable,” Abrams wrote. “Nonetheless, Georgians gave America the chance to cross sweeping reforms that may strengthen our democracy and commemorate his battle for all.”

Each of the newly minted senators have pledged to pursue laws to broaden and defend voting rights, a trigger that Lewis championed for many of his life. Democrats and their supporters are hopeful that their newfound management of the White Home and Congress may imply voting protections beforehand stalled by a GOP-led Senate may obtain fast passage.

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Chief amongst these is a invoice handed by the Home in 2019 that has since been renamed after Lewis. It seeks to revive parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 struck down by the U.S. Supreme Courtroom in 2013. 

The ruling in Shelby County v. Holder ended a requirement that jurisdictions with a historical past of discriminatory voting practices obtain preclearance from the federal authorities for any adjustments to voting procedures. Democrats and voting rights teams argue that the ruling has led to a cascade of adjustments in lots of states which have disenfranchised voters, together with polling place closures.

In a information convention Thursday, Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi recognized the laws as a prime precedence and mentioned she was optimistic about its prospects.

That mentioned, the Senate may have its palms full with the upcoming impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, in addition to consideration of appointments by President Joe Biden and his early legislative proposals, together with a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan.

Lewis died in July on the age of 80 after battling pancreatic most cancers. He served within the Home for 33 years representing Georgia’s fifth Congressional District, which incorporates most of Atlanta.

Lewis turned a key participant within the civil rights motion as a younger man within the 1960s. He helped discovered the Scholar Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was among the many authentic Freedom Riders who challenged segregated bus terminals within the South, and was the youngest particular person to talk on the March on Washington in 1963. 

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Most related to the pursuit to safe and defend voting rights, Lewis led protesters within the 1965 Bloody Sunday march throughout the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, the place he had his cranium fractured by police, and was a driving drive behind voting rights legal guidelines within the U.S. for many years.

Lewis was a parishioner of Warnock’s for years on the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta the place the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached and Warnock stays pastor. Warnock was referred to as to Lewis’ bedside days earlier than his demise and presided over his funeral service.

“Right this moment the world misplaced an enormous. I misplaced a mentor, a church member and a pal,” Warnock mentioned in a tweet shortly after Lewis’ demise. “In his youth, John Lewis wrestled with a name to ministry. However as an alternative of preaching sermons, he turned a sermon for all of the world to see.”

Ossoff first met Lewis when, as a teen, he was impressed by Lewis’ e book “Strolling With the Wind” and wrote him a letter. “I used to be so impressed by how an individual so younger had taken a management position within the pursuit of justice and confronting the abuse of energy, and was simply in awe of his life,” Ossoff mentioned in an interview with The Related Press in December. Lewis wrote again and invited Ossoff to return work in his workplace for a number of months, spawning a yearslong relationship between the 2.

Lewis’ early endorsement of Ossoff helped him defeat a challenger with way more expertise in elected workplace to clinch the Democratic nomination for Senate.

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Warnock and Ossoff defeated Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who each ran on fealty to Trump, in a runoff election on Jan. 5. They’re the primary Democrats to win a U.S. Senate election in Georgia since 2000.

On the night time of the election, because the Democrats’ leads turned clear, members of Congress who labored alongside Lewis paid tribute to the late congressman, saying he laid the groundwork for the victories.

“My pal John Lewis planted the inspiration of this Georgia over his profession,” Democratic Rep. Invoice Pascrell of New Jersey mentioned in a tweet. “I want he have been right here tonight to look at this.”

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