House passes bill restoring the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act


Since the House of Representatives began its impeachment inquiry into potential abuses of power by Donald Trump, Trump and his Republican congressional defenders have repeatedly claimed it was making other legislation impossible.

This is the alternate reality world of Republicans, i.e., lies and propaganda. The reality is House Democrats have passed nearly 400 bills. Trump and Republicans are ignoring them:

Democrats in the House have been passing bills at a rapid clip; as of November 15, the House has passed nearly 400 bills, not including resolutions. But the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee estimates 80 percent of those bill have hit a snag in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is prioritizing confirming judges over passing bills.

This has led to House Democrats decrying McConnell’s so-called “legislative graveyard,” a moniker the Senate majority leader has proudly adopted. McConnell calls himself the “grim reaper” of Democratic legislation he derides as socialist[.]

For all of Trump’s complaints, the House is doing more legislative work than the Senate (updated totals):

There’s just one problem with this particular branding effort: The House has actually passed more legislation this year than the Senate.

Some 542 measures originating in the House have been passed by the House or both the House and the Senate during the 116th Congress, which began in January. Of those 542 measures, 389 were bills. On the Senate side, the numbers are lower: 384 measures, of which only 91 are bills. The rest were resolutions of one kind or another.

What was the Senate voting on? Mostly cloture — moving past filibusters — and, of course, nominations made by the president.

The Senate took 172 roll-call votes on cloture, many of them related to the 141 votes on nominations. Of those 141 nomination votes, 81 were for members of the judiciary.

Judicial nominees who are unqualified and unfit to serve on the federal bench. Just this week, “Moscow Mitch” and his fellow traveler Republicans confirmed Sarah Pitlyk to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, despite the fact the American Bar Association rated her as “not qualified” because of her lack of any experience in the courtroom. (She does, however, oppose abortion rights and supports “religious liberty” rights, i.e., the right to discriminate based upon one’s supposed religious beliefs). Senate confirms Trump judicial nominee, an abortion foe rated as ‘not qualifed’.

The only qualification for these judicial nominees is that they bear the stamp of approval from the radical far-right Federalist Society. This is a scandal of immense proportions that does not receive nearly enough media attention. It is a crime against our democracy.

While Donald Trump is busy destroying the presidency, and “the Grim Reaper” and his Republican senators are busy destroying the Senate and the federal judiciary, the House is still doing the work of the people.

On Friday, the House passed a voting rights bill to restore protections struck down by Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder:

The House passed legislation Friday restoring protections of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) that were undone when the Supreme Court struck down federal oversight of elections in states with a history of discriminating against minority communities.

The bill passed 228 to 187, with unanimous Democratic support and the vote of one Republican — Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.).

“No longer will cynical politicians and states with dark histories of discrimination have the green light to freely continue their systemic suppression campaign,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the floor.

The bill faces long odds of becoming law, with opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate and the White House threatening a veto by President Trump.

[T]he 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder overturned [Section 4 of the VRA, which made Section 5 preclearance by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division inoperable], asserting that they were no longer needed.

The Shelby County decision immediately unleashed an unprecedented wave of GOP voter suppression measures in GOP-controlled states, demonstrating just how wrong Chief Justice Roberts was in his view that the VRA was no longer needed. But he already knew that when he disingenuously wrote his opinion. This was always the intended result of his opinion, make no mistake about it. Roberts had worked to undermine the VRA for years before joining the Supreme Court.

The bill would allow federal oversight for state and local jurisdictions that enact stricter voters laws that disproportionately suppress the vote in communities of color.

In her speech on the House floor, Pelosi said at least 23 states have enacted “voter suppression laws, including voter purges, strict ID requirements, poll closures, voter intimidation, denying millions their voice by their vote” since the Supreme Court ruling.

“This bill restores the Voting Rights Act’s strength to combat the clear resurgence of voter discrimination unleashed by Shelby by updating the data determining which states and practices are covered by the law,” she said.

The sponsor of the bill was Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.) who represents Selma, where civil rights protesters, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), were beaten when crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965.

“I dare say that Selma is still now. Since the Shelby decision, 25 states have put in stricter voter restriction laws. Selma is still now because since the Shelby decision, 12 states have laws making it harder for citizens to register and stay registered,” Sewell said on the House floor.

Lewis presided over the vote and announced the measure’s passage to applause from his Democratic colleagues.

The bill will now head to the “legislative graveyard” of “the Grim Reaper” of the Senate, Mitch McConnell.

As Robert Reich recently wrote, Mitch McConnell is “the most dangerous politician of my lifetime. He’s helped transform the Republican Party into a cult, worshiping at the altar of authoritarianism. He’s damaged our country in ways that may take a generation to undo.” Who is worse: Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell?

McConnell puts party above America, and Trump above party. Even if Trump is gone, if the Senate remains in Republican hands and McConnell is reelected, America loses because McConnell will still have a chokehold on our democracy.

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McConnell refuses to support what’s needed for comprehensive election security — although both the U.S. intelligence community and Special Prosecutor Mueller say Moscow is continuing to hack into our voting machines and to weaponize disinformation through social media.

McConnell has earned the nickname “Moscow Mitch” because he’s doing exactly what Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump want him to do — leave America vulnerable to another Putin-supported victory for Trump.

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So even if Trump is out of the White House, if McConnell remains Senate Majority Leader he will not allow a Democratic president to govern.

“We also have to flip the Senate and remove the worst Senate Majority Leader in history.”