President Obama’s call to renew the VRA is DOA on Capitol Hill—despite the best efforts of a conservative Republican congressman. Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner is nobody’s idea of a pussycat. A combative conservative and former chair of the House Judiciary committee, he vowed more than a year ago to restore the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court in 2013 overturned a key section monitoring states that had been past offenders. He said the historic civil-rights legislation “is vital to our commitment to never again permit racial prejudices in our electoral process.” He promised action before the 2014 election. There’s no question that Sensenbrenner’s commitment is real, but the legislative fix that he fashioned is stalled in Congress and going nowhere. This is despite the fact that one of his principle co-sponsors is Democratic Rep. John Lewis, a civil-rights icon who marched in Selma last weekend to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the VRA.
“How can that be?” President Obama pleaded in the speech he delivered at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge where Lewis was beaten and bloodied a half century ago. The VRA is “one of the crowning achievements of our democracy,” Obama said, noting that Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush signed its reauthorization when they were in office. A hundred members of Congress had come to Selma to honor those like Lewis who put their life on the line for the right to vote. He urged them to go back to Washington, gather four hundred more, “and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore the law this year.”
What Obama politely didn’t say is that the congressional showing was almost all Democrats. One of the few Republicans on hand, South Carolina’s Tim Scott, criticized Obama for mixing politics with symbolism by mentioning the stalled legislation. “Politics is about what’s important to people, and what bothers people—so when a politician like Tim Scott who comes from a state that’s worse than Ferguson says politics shouldn’t be introduced, that means he doesn’t want to talk about it,” says David Bositis, formerly with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, whose research focuses on the American black electorate.
Full Article: Why The Voting Rights Act is Doomed – The Daily Beast.