During a debate on the House floor today over designating 21 miles of the Molalla River as “wild and scenic,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who opposes the legislation, tried to claim a progressive environmental record for her party. “Actually, the GOP has been the leader in starting good environmental programs in this country,” said Foxx.
Foxx then extended her claims of the GOP’s progressive history to the issue of civil rights. “Just as we were the people who passed the civil rights bills back in the ’60s without very much help from our colleagues across the aisle,” said Fox. “They love to engage in revisionist history.” When Foxx finally yielded her time on the floor, Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) passionately rebuked her:
CARDOZA: Today, what I’m hearing on the floor really takes the cake. The gentlelady from North Carolina, in her statement just now, indicated that the Republican GOP had passed the Civil Rights Act legislation with almost no help from the Democrats. I can’t believe my ears. It was the Kennedy and Johnson administration where we passed that Great Society legislation. It was over the objections of people like Jesse Helms from the gentlewoman’s state that we passed that civil rights legislation. John Lewis…
FOXX: Would, would the gentleman yield?
CARDOZA: No, I will not yield. John Lewis, a member of this House, was beaten on the Edmund Pettus bridge to get that civil rights legislation passed. Tell John Lewis that he wasn’t part of getting that legislation passed.
When she was given a chance to respond, Foxx could only say that Jesse Helms wasn’t elected to the Senate until 1972. Watch it:
Foxx’s claim that Republicans were the real engine behind the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a common notion among conservatives. But as Cardoza points out, it was President Lyndon Johnson who “choreographed passage of this historic measure in 1964.” In fact, the Republican presidential candidate in 1964, Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), voted against the legislation.
To support the claim that Republicans were actually the architects of civil rights, conservatives often point out that a “higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats supported the civil-rights bill.” But this ignores the “distinct split between Northern and Southern politicians” on the issue. When this is taken into account, the facts show that “in both the North and the South, Democrats supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act at a higher rate than the Republicans.”