Sen. Leahy vows congressional action on the Voting Rights Act

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Steve Benen reports, Leahy vows 'immediate action' on Voting Rights Act:

With the future of the Voting Rights Act back in the hands of lawmakers, it's heartening to see that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) wasted no time this morning in vowing action.

"Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has protected minorities of all
races from discriminatory practices in voting for nearly 50 years, yet
the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the coverage formula
effectively guts the ability of Section 5 to protect voters from
discriminatory practices. I could not disagree more with this result or
the majority's rationale. The Voting Rights Act has been upheld five
times by the Supreme Court on prior occasions, and Section 5 was
reauthorized and signed into law by a Republican President in 2006 after
a thorough and bipartisan process in which Congress overwhelmingly
determined that the law was still vital to protecting minority voting
rights and that the coverage formula determining the jurisdictions to be
covered was still applicable. Several lower court decisions in recent
years have found violations of the Voting Rights Act and evidence of
intentional discrimination in covered jurisdictions. Despite this sound
record, and the weight of history, a narrow majority has decided today
to substitute its own judgment over the exhaustive legislative findings
of Congress.

As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I intend to take immediate
action to ensure that we will have a strong and reconstituted Voting
Rights Act that protects against racial discrimination in voting."

Keep in mind, when the Senate last took up the VRA, it passed unanimously in 2006. As Ed Kilgore noted, "We're about to find out how much GOP has changed" since then.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has, at least so far, not issued
a statement responding to the Supreme Court ruling, though it's worth
noting that Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the former chairman, said
as recently as March that if the decision makes it necessary, "I think
we should, if possible, figure out a way to fix the Supreme Court's
objections [to the Voting Rights Act. The Voting Rights Act has been, I
think, the most effective of all of the civil rights laws.
It
enfranchised all minorities in the south, and that includes both African
Americans and Republicans."

Asked if Republicans would have the political will to act, Sensenbrenner told Salon at the time, "I'm gonna make them fix it."

President Obama issued a statement on the Shelby decision. Statement by the President on the Supreme Court Ruling on Shelby County v. Holder:

I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today.
 For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act – enacted and repeatedly
renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress – has helped secure
the right to vote for millions of Americans.  Today’s decision
invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of
well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair,
especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically
prevalent.

As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing
every American the right to vote.  But, as the Supreme Court
recognized, voting discrimination still exists.    And while today’s
decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to
end voting discrimination.  I am calling on Congress to pass legislation
to ensure every American has equal access to the polls.  My
Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a
fair and equal voting process
.

Overturning this shameful decision is now a priority.

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