My AJC colleague Daniel Malloy in Washington sends this report of a confrontation between two Georgia members of Congress that you may not have heard about: Around 10 p.m. last night, as House debate over a contentious spending bill stretched on, Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, approached with an amendment to end all funding for U.S. Department of Justice enforcement of Section Five of the Voting Rights Act. This is the provision that requires states like Georgia to submit new election laws – last year’s statewide redistricting, for instance — for federal approval to ensure against disenfranchisement of minorities. Broun argued that this is a hammer held over only a few select states, and noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has suggested that the law has outlived its usefulness.
“It is also highly unfair, allowing some states to make changes to their election laws while other states wishing to make the same changes are forced to jump through a bunch of hoops,” Broun said. “I know firsthand how onerous this law is. My home state of Georgia, as an example, has long struggled with the U.S. Department of Justice over its voter identification laws.”
This did not sit well with Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta – a bona fide civil rights hero who was beaten during the Freedom Rides and marched with Martin Luther King Jr. He arrived minutes later to give a rousing speech and a rare slap at a fellow member of the Georgia delegation.