House Democrats are floating a legislative deal linking the thorny Confederate flag debate with expanded voting rights. Republican leaders last week were forced to scrap a vote on an Interior Department spending bill — and suspend their appropriations schedule indefinitely — over a partisan disagreement about displaying the Confederate flag in national cemeteries. Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, said Thursday that Democratic leaders will drop their push to attach flag-related amendments to appropriations bills, freeing Republicans to pursue their spending agenda, if GOP leaders will agree to consider an update to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a central part of which was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013.
A day after a top Republican seemed to dismiss the need to restore a critical part of the Voting Rights Act, lawmakers Thursday told NBC News they would reintroduce bipartisan voting rights legislation next week, in what the Congressional Black Caucus says will be a massive effort to aggressively defend voting rights. House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., suggested other sections of the Voting Rights Act are already strong enough. “To this point, we have not seen a process forward that is necessary to protect people because we think the Voting Rights Act is providing substantial protection in this area right now,” Goodlatte said while speaking to reporters at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast. Calling Goodlatte’s statement a “bombshell,” the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C., warned “If Bob Goodlatte is speaking for the Republican Conference, this is a very serious development because we are going to push back in a very significant way against the unwillingness of the Republicans to take up extending section five protections.”
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C,), the man House Democrats have tapped to lead their push for revising the Voting Rights Act after last week’s Supreme Court decision gutted the law’s Section 4, urged the creation of national voting standards that would likely replace the special restrictions for a bloc of Southern states under the current law. While not ruling out a new kind of “pre-clearance” system, which had required parts or all of 15 states to get federal approval for changing their voting provisions, Clyburn said Democrats were mostly debating a new provision that would mandate every state abide by certain “minimum standards.” Clyburn said such a law, for example, might require every state have at least nine days of early voting. States could chose to have many more days, but could not have fewer than nine, he said. Similar federal standards would apply to redistricting and ballot access concerns, such as voter ID laws, although he did not provide details.