Speech ● Black Lives Matter
For Immediate Release: 
June 25, 2020
Contact Info: 
Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, which passed the House this evening. Below are his remarks and a link to the video. 

 Click here to watch the video.
“Mr. Speaker, we ought to come together, we ought to reason together, and we will get a better product in the legislative process. Sadly, our friends in the United States Senate don't always do that. Sadly, when [the Republican] party was in the leadership, it didn't always do that. And yes, from time to time, we do that. This is an issue of critical, immediate concern, and there is a way to get to where the gentleman from Texas suggested. Pass legislation in the Senate, pass legislation here, we'll go to conference, and we will try to resolve our differences so we can pass a bill.

“I’ve talked to the gentlelady from California, the former Speaker in the California assembly [Rep. Karen Bass], and she's told me that she doesn't want to message. She wants a law, and I am absolutely convinced that's true. And she understands the legislative process very well. But in order to initiate that process, we need to pass a bill, and we have, unfortunately, constraints on amendments because of coronavirus. But having said that, I hope that we pass this bill, and I hope the Senate passes a bill. Unfortunately, they will have to come to agreement and get 60 votes. I say unfortunately because Mitch McConnell is not prepared to get to the 60 votes. We don't have to get to 60 votes. Here, the Majority rules. The Majority will rule today, and the Majority sponsored this bill.

“Mr. Speaker, on the rostrum… there is inscribed five words… union, justice, tolerance, peace, and liberty. It is our individual and collective responsibilities as Members of this House, the People's House, to ensure that all of these virtues are upheld in the United States. There is justifiable anger in this country because justice is not being upheld. That does not mean it's never being upheld, but it ought to be always upheld. There is a deep frustration because some of those charged with enforcing our laws are doing so without tolerance, in a way that disregards the rights and welfare of victims without just cause. That does not damn all members of the police. In fact, not the majority. But it does damn actions that are inconsistent with justice and peace and tolerance and liberty.

“Many of our people will never see the full light of liberty because of the color of their skin. The result has been a broken union and a broken peace. That is why this House must act.

“We must act to make it clear beyond any doubt to every person in this country that Black lives matter. For too long in America, Black lives did not matter. Too many people who lived in America were chattels, and their lives were counted in the dollars that that property was worth, not in their human value. For far, far too long, Mr. Speaker, there has been a legacy of slavery, segregation, and prejudice.

“We must act to ensure that law enforcement in every jurisdiction understands that each human being is entitled to equal justice under law and to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And we must act to ensure that no longer will we see horrific images and videos of unarmed Black men and women being killed by those who are sworn to uphold the law and keep the peace.

“The bill we are voting on today is long overdue. I congratulate the Congressional Black Caucus, Ms. Bass, Senator [Kamala] Harris, and Senator [Cory] Booker. This bill would ban chokeholds like the kind that killed George Floyd last month and whose memory this bill is named. I knelt on the marble floor. My knee rejected that as something that I wanted to do. It was not only painful, but it was a long time – eight minutes and 45 seconds. That was not to restrain George Floyd. He was restrained.

“It would also ban no-knock warrants of the kind that led to the murder of Breonna Taylor in her own home that was mistakenly broken into by the police. And it would condition federal funding to state and local governments on banning racial profiling and adopting best practices for police training as identified by the Obama Administration’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Moreover, this bill would facilitate, under appropriate circumstances, the ability of victims to be compensated for their loss. A right without a remedy is no right at all.

“I want to thank Chairwoman Bass and the Congressional Black Caucus for introducing this bill, of which I am proud to be a cosponsor. And I would like to thank as well Chairman Nadler on the Judiciary Committee for moving swiftly to mark up this legislation so we could have it on the Floor today. I say swiftly – it has been centuries that the dark blot of slavery and dehumanization of some of our fellow Americans has been a reality.

“Senator McConnell has already said that the Republican-led Senate will not even consider this bill. That's not surprising. There are 275 bills, all of whom have Republican votes, sitting on Senator McConnell’s desk or maybe wastebasket. So, its not surprising that he won't consider this bill either anymore than he considered Justice Garland by a President who had 11 months on his term. We'll see what the people say in a few short months. If we do not consider this bill, it will be an egregious mistake and failure to honor one of the most sacred of our nation’s precept: that we are all created equal and we should be judged not by the color of our skin – which happens too often, too frequently, too regularly – not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character and the caliber of our conduct. By ignoring this bill, Senator McConnell is ignoring the cries for justice from Blacks, from whites, from Americans of all different colors and all different religions, all who are distinguished by one facet or another, but they have in common that they are Americans governed by a Constitution and laws of our country. Senator McConnell would be ignoring the history and legacy of slavery and segregation that has led to these acts.

“My colleague mentioned Montgomery, Alabama and a number of the museums [there]. Bryan Stevenson has a museum, and he said the first thing you do when you discriminate against people is you dehumanize them. It should not be a surprise if we have for centuries dehumanized people of color that from time to time and too often they are not treated as human beings.

“I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, vote for this bill. Vote for this bill even if you don't think it's perfect.  Vote for this bill because you want to say we want justice for every American. Vote for this bill because you want to say we want remedy for wrongs. Vote for this bill to restore justice. Vote for this bill to protect liberty. Vote for this bill to promote tolerance. Vote for this bill to restore peace to the families of victims and entire communities that live in fear. And vote for this bill to preserve our union as not only a union of states, but a nation of free people united in our common pursuit of justice and opportunity for all. The People’s House needs to do its job for all the people. This is not an anti-police bill. It is a bill that cries out for whatever our discipline, including Members of Congress, that we act consistent with the law, consistent with the Constitution, and consistent with our moral values.

“We will not leave these words to only be inscribed in wood, but enshrined in our hearts and in our laws: union, justice, tolerance, peace, and liberty – not for some, but for all. Those are neither Democratic principles, nor Republican ones. These are American principles. These are in many ways unique principles honored by this country in its rhetoric. This bill is to honor those in reality. That’s why all those who believe in these principles should vote for this bill."