Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) lamented the recent spate of laws aimed at restricting voting since the Supreme Court’s decision in late June to ax a centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act. But, notably, the Democratic leader tempered expectations when it comes to enacting a legislative fix to the portion of the 1965 law that the high court invalidated. “The Senate will debate the Voting Rights Act. We will examine these dangerous voter suppression efforts, and propose steps the Senate can take to ensure the right of every American to cast a ballot,” Reid said in a statement Wednesday.
Ever since the Supreme Court gutted a centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act and threw it back in Congress’s lap, lawmakers in both parties have engaged in happy talk about the prospects of patching the provision used to proactively snuff out voter discrimination against minorities in the state and local governments where it’s most prevalent. But it’s looking less and less likely that a fix will be agreed to because Republicans have little to gain and a lot to lose politically if they cooperate. “Ain’t gonna happen,” Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) said late last week, according to Roll Call. A recent House Judiciary Committee hearing made clear that Republicans have little to no interest in reconstituting the Voting Rights Act. Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-TX) opened by emphasizing that even after the Supreme Court’s decision, “other very important provisions of the Voting Rights Act remain in place.”
The story of voting rights in the year 2013 — how the five conservative justices of the United States Supreme Court undercut them last month and what Congress must do to restore them now — is really the story of America itself. There has been much premature self-congratulation mixed in with a great deal of denial and dissonance. There has been a widening gulf between promise and reality. Patriotic words of bipartisanship have flowed, promises of cooperation have oozed, but there are few rational reasons to believe that the nation’s representatives will quickly rally together to do what needs to be done. The premature self-congratulation came from the Court itself. Less than one year after Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act stymied voter suppression efforts in the 2012 election in Florida, Texas and South Carolina, Chief Justice John Roberts in his opinion in Shelby County v. Holder heralded the “great strides” the nation has made in combating such suppression and the fact that “blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare.” Not so rare. Before the sun set that day, June 25th, officials in Texas and North Carolina had moved forward with restrictive voting measures that had been blocked by the federal law.
National: Republicans hand first hearing on Voting Rights Act to opponent of Voting Rights Act | MSNBC
House Republicans are diving into the battle over renewing the Voting Rights Act, scheduling their first hearing on the issue for this Thursday. The hearing, confirmed by a GOP source and the House Judiciary Committee, marks the GOP’s first tangible legislative attempt to respond to the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision in June, which invalidated part of the VRA. The move suggests that Republican leaders, who mostly offered evasive statements after the Shelby decision, have decided they should engage some kind of legislative process to discuss the ruling. In fact, the hearing will come just one day after the Senate Democrats’ first hearing on the VRA. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on the VRA’s history from strong backers of the legislation, Rep. John Lewis and Rep. James Sensenbrenner. The move also shows, however, that some House Republicans are aiming to kill any voting rights reform. That’s because Republicans handed the hearing to Trent Franks, one of just 33 Republicans who voted against the last VRA re-authorization in 2006. (A total of 390 House members voted for it.)