Passing a new Voting Rights Act in the GOP-dominated House was never going to be easy, supporters acknowledge. But with a powerful Republican such as Eric Cantor as an ally, hope flickered for nearly a year. Then came June 10 and the shocking primary defeat that tanked Cantor’s congressional career — taking with it, in all likelihood, any prospect for an update of the landmark 1965 civil rights legislation that had been weakened by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling. Even with Cantor as majority leader, said a House aide close to the VRA negotiations, “I would have speculated that it was certainly a very steep climb. That it was unlikely, but there was still hope.” But with the Virginia Republican out of the mix, the aide said, “it doesn’t appear we’re going to see it this Congress.”
It’s a disappointing turn that has some Democrats wondering if Cantor ever deserved the benefit of a doubt on minority voting rights.
“I really wanted to believe he was sincere,” Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who helped draft the VRA revision, told CQ Roll Call. “As I look back on it now, I probably gave him too much credit.”
Ultimately, no matter what Cantor did, it’s what he didn’t do — or wasn’t able to do — that’s bound to be his legacy on the issue.