Democrats in both chambers are working behind the scenes to draft legislation to re-install the Voting Rights Act protections shot down by the Supreme Court over the summer. But in a sign of the delicate nature of the topic, Senate Democrats are taking care not to rush ahead of the House, for fear of sinking the bill’s chances in the GOP-controlled lower chamber. Instead, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is working with House Democrats and a small contingent of House Republicans – notably former Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (Wis.), who championed the 2006 VRA reauthorization – in an effort to defuse the partisan politics surrounding the thorny issue and forge a bill that has the best chance of becoming law. “We’ve had hearings and now we’re just trying to quietly get some support, because I don’t want to bring up something that doesn’t go anywhere,” Leahy said Thursday.
Leahy said he’d hoped a July hearing on the VRA – which featured testimony from Sensenbrenner and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights hero – would have propelled the debate and made the case for bipartisan support of a fix. But the August recess, the arrival of the Syria crisis and the fierce fight over the government shutdown have all intervened to slow the process, and the negotiators have yet to produce even a draft bill.
“I thought having Jim Sensenbrenner and John Lewis [as] the first people to testify shows that there is a reason for it,” Leahy said. “We’d probably be further along now if we hadn’t had this shutdown, which threw everything off.”
By treading carefully – and taking steps to get House GOP leaders on board – the Democrats are taking lessons from debates of the past few months, when the Senate has passed bills with broad bipartisan support only to see them founder in the House.
Full Article: Dems tread carefully on voting rights bill | TheHill.