Although many congressional Republicans so far have been noncommittal about rewriting an invalidated section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner said Wednesday that “a lot” of them want to do so. Sensenbrenner is the most prominent among a small number of GOP lawmakers who have urged a congressional rewrite of the statute after the Supreme Court partially struck it down in June. But that doesn’t mean other Republicans are not willing to join him in his effort, he told CQ Roll Call in an interview. “There are a lot of Republicans who are [on board], but they don’t want to be publicly named,” said Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., a former Judiciary Committee chairman and architect of the 2006 compromise to reauthorize the voting law. “There’s a lot of pressure, and I’m happy to take that.” Sensenbrenner said he has “no idea” when the first legislative language of a rewrite might appear, but said “we’re going to start talking about drafts after the recess.” He and other negotiators — including two Democratic working groups in the House — will need to address two basic questions, he said.
“We first have got to talk to the lawyers to see what draft will meet the Supreme Court’s objections, and then we have to look at the political question as to whether it’s passable,” he said.
The two Democratic working groups are run by the Congressional Black Caucus and the House minority leadership. Reps. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina and Robert C. Scott of Virginia are leading the CBC panel, while Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the assistant minority leader, is spearheading the other group.
Butterfield said in an interview that his group delivered a set of policy proposals to Clyburn on Friday, and that Clyburn’s group “will take our recommendations, along with others, and come up with their [own] recommendations” and then “reach out to Republicans.”
Despite the existence of the two groups, Butterfield said he expects his party to agree on final recommendations, contending, “I think in all likelihood we will be completely united on the Democratic side.”