A House Republican who led the last push to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act exhorted lawmakers Wednesday to join him in bringing the law back to life. The day after the Supreme Court quashed the anti-discrimination statute, Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) urged lawmakers to cast aside their differences and restore the rejected provisions for the sake of voter protection. “The Voting Rights Act is vital to America’s commitment to never again permit racial prejudices in the electoral process,” Sensenbrenner, the second-ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday in a statement. “This is going to take time, and will require members from both sides of the aisle to put partisan politics aside and ensure Americans’ most sacred right is protected.” Republican Reps. Steve Chabot (Ohio) and Sean Duffy (Wis.) also expressed support Wednesday for congressional action in response to the high court’s ruling.
They have a difficult road ahead. Although Sensenbrenner had little trouble reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act as Judiciary chairman in 2006, the parties have grown further apart since then, and there are real doubts about whether Congress can agree to an update now.
The difficulties are magnified by the court’s ruling, which struck down a formula that had been in place since 1975 to determine which districts must receive federal approval before changing their voting practices.
In order to craft a new formula, lawmakers would essentially have to reach a consensus about which parts of the country are most likely to discriminate against minorities — a charged question that could prove politically explosive.
Both Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) remained silent Wednesday about the path forward for changes to the law.
“We are reviewing this decision,” Boehner told reporters in the Capitol.