This coming Thursday, August 6, is the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in American history.
When the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the coverage section, Section 4 of the Act, in 2013 in Shelby County v. Holder, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that Congress remained free to try to impose federal oversight on states where voting rights were at risk, but must do so based on contemporary data.
The Tea-Publican controlled Congress has failed to act on this suggestion from the Court, preferring the status quo of a gutted Voting Rights Act, followed by the largest number of voting restrictions enacted by GOP states since the Jim Crow era.
A bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) in response to the Supreme Court ruling that struck down Section 4 of the law in 2013 was introduced in 2014, and again earlier this year (The Sensenbrenner-Conyers bill, known as the Voting Rights Amendment Act). Bill To Restore Voting Rights Act Gets Another Bipartisan Push. A separate Democratic bill has also been introduced. Democrats Unveil Bill To Restore Gutted Voting Rights Act (The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015, which goes beyond the version introduced in 2014).
Democrats have made a push for Congress to vote on these bills on the eve of the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, but Tea-Publican congressional leaders have refused.
Steve Benen reports, GOP leaders throw cold water on voting-rights compromise:
The original plan on Capitol Hill was for members to spend the month of July working on spending bills to prevent a government shutdown. Confederate flags, of all things, derailed the process, and now even a Democratic proposed compromise is going nowhere.
To briefly recap, Democrats introduced a measure curtailing the display of Confederate flags on graves in federal cemeteries and the sale of Confederate flags in national park gift stores. [It was approved by the House on a voice vote.] Southern Republicans balked [and moved for reconsideration] and the mess has brought the entire federal appropriations process to a halt.
A few weeks ago, Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, unveiled a compromise solution: Dems will drop their [already approved provision] on Confederate flags if Republicans agree to take up the restoration of the Voting Rights Act. Given the bipartisan support the VRA has traditionally enjoyed, it seemed like a decent offer.
The Hill reports that GOP leaders aren’t interested in the deal.
House Republican leaders are slamming the brakes on voting rights legislation, insisting that any movement on the issue go through a key Republican committee chairman who opposes the proposal. […]
“Speaker Boehner has said that he believes that the Voting Rights Act has been an effective tool in protecting a right that is fundamental to our democracy. That’s why we reauthorized the law for 25 years in 2006,” a Boehner spokesperson said Friday in an email. “He also believes that if members want to change the law, those discussions will have to begin at the Judiciary Committee.”
This argument is a mess. Note, Democrats don’t want to “change” the Voting Rights Act; they want to restore it after the Supreme Court gutted the law and encouraged Congress to revisit its key provisions.
Clyburn’s proposed solution doesn’t even require passage of the revised VRA; he’s just asking for an up-or-down floor vote — a remedy that the Speaker’s office has now rejected.
Maybe the GOP-led House Judiciary Committee will take up the proposed fixes to the Voting Rights Act? No. The committee’s far-right chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), has already said explicitly that he likes the status quo – which is to say, the gutted VRA – just the way it is.
So, House Republicans won’t repair the Voting Rights Act; they won’t approve the proposed Confederate flag amendments; and they won’t consider a compromise that combine the two fights.
But the Senate today will take up the first of a series of votes in Congress tied to appropriations bills to defund Planned Parenthood in response to a strategy demanded by the fetus fetish Forced Birthers. 18 House Republicans Pledge to Shut Down Government if Planned Parenthood not defunded; Erick Erickson: Shut down gov’t over Planned Parenthood.
For the record, no federal funds are provided for abortion services since the Hyde Amendment in 1976. The Forced Birthers are not “defunding” abortions but are seeking to defund women’s health services for low income women for cancer screenings, STD screenings, wellness check-ups, and family planning services. In many parts of the country, Planned Parenthood is the only medical provider of such services to low income women. Even the reliably Republican Washington Post editorial board opined this weekend, Stop the vendetta against Planned Parenthood. See also Julie Rovner at The Atlantic, Fetal-Tissue Research And The Long Fight to Defund Planned Parenthood.
A month ago, I would have said the odds of a government shutdown are quite low, but they’re increasing all the time. Between the Republicans’ crusade against fetal tissue research, Republicans Were For Fetal Tissue Research Before They Were Against It, which the party has supported for 22 years, and the fight over Confederate symbols and voting rights, it’s getting pretty easy to imagine GOP lawmakers shutting down the government again in late September.
So just to be clear: The GOP is in favor of Confederate flags and for taking health care away from low income women, and it is against restoring voting rights that existed for almost 50 years until a conservative activist Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. And they are willing to take the country hostage to their extortion demands or they will shut down the federal government, again.
You can’t get any more backwards and regressive, or reckless and irresponsible than this.
UPDATE: Tonight at 7 p.m. EST, New Hampshire’s Union Leader will host a forum for the GOP presidential field, featuring 14 of the 17 candidates. The three candidates who will not participate are Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, and Jim Gilmore. Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio will appear via satellite, because of Senate votes to defund Planned Parenthood scheduled for later today. Ed Kilgore at the Political Animal blog suggests “it will be interesting to see how many of them volunteer support for a government shutdown scenario. Then next weekend most of them will be asked about this directly by Erick Erickson at the Red State Gathering in Atlanta.”