Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 10, 2016

Champions of Voting Rights Act Compromise Are Cautiously Optimistic

An eclectic group of House and Senate lawmakers expressed cautious optimism Thursday afternoon that their proposed “modernization” of the historic Voting Rights Act would become law this year.

None of the members assembled for the last-minute news conference were prepared to say it would be an easy sell to their colleagues on either side of the aisle or Rotunda — especially in the Republican-run House, where GOP lawmakers from southern states are sensitive to accusations of racial discrimination.

The proponents of passing a VRA rewrite stressed that they see an appetite among their peers to respond to the challenge the Supreme Court posed to Congress last summer: Rewrite for the 21st century the provision of the historic law that the court struck down, the one that determines which states must receive federal permission to change their voting rules and regulations.

They added that their bill, fiercely negotiated behind closed doors for several months, would satiate that appetite.

“I think we have hit a goldmine here,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who oversaw the last extension of the VRA in 2006.

The Wisconsin Republican and House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., are co-sponsors of the House bill reflecting the bicameral proposal.

“This is not something that is going to be filibustered in the Senate,” pledged Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., the sponsor of the Senate legislation, which is also being championed by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.

The success of their proposal, the members argued at the Thursday news conference, was that it struck a number of compromises designed to win favor from lawmakers all along the political spectrum.

Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and civil rights icon, told reporters he could hardly believe the delicate balance negotiators were able to reach.

“It’s amazing to me, it’s unbelievable, it’s almost unreal, that we were able to come together so quickly to craft a compromise that both Democrats and Republicans can find a way to support and move forward,” said Lewis. “Each side had to give up a little to come up with a solution. I will admit that it’s not a perfect deal. But it’s a necessary and good beginning. We had to do what we could.”

Though the lawmakers wouldn’t get into specifics of the gives-and-takes of negotiation, the bill lowers the bar for forcing states to submit to “pre-clearance” requirements, increases transparency when states change their voting laws and enables jurisdictions to enact “reasonable” voter identification requirements.

At the heart of the proposed changes to the VRA, however, is the rewrite of the pre-clearance formula ruled unconstitutional last summer by the Supreme Court. Under the new proposal, “current conditions” would be used to decide which states had a worrisome record of racial discrimination at the polls. Four states would automatically fall into that category: Texas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Lawmakers hailing from those states are likely to take issue with being the target of federal oversight off the bat. Sensenbrenner said he is working on shoring up support among House Republicans who hail from the South as a way to ease tensions, and said he already had two such co-sponsors in South Carolina’s Trey Gowdy and Alabama’s Spencer Bachus.

Leahy won’t have a problem selling the bill to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., but proponents of the legislation in the House will have to get the support of GOP leadership just to get the measure brought up in the Judiciary Committee, let alone on the floor.

Sensenbrenner said he has spoken with Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who, while not involved in this round of negotiations, has signaled an openness to moving ahead on a VRA fix.

Neither Sensenbrenner nor Conyers had a good read on where House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., stood on the proposal.

“I fully support protecting the voting rights of all Americans,” Goodlatte told 218 in a statement. “As Congress determines whether additional steps are needed to protect those rights, I look forward to reviewing the legislation.”

  • MrSmith

    Write a Voting Rights Act for everyone. Don’t make some areas exempt.

    • stafford123

      Read the article, please. That is what the proposal appears to do – apply the same standards to all states. No area of the country is exempt.

      • chock

        Really, do you believe that. Already listed 4 states. They will have us doing the same things the communist do in Washington which allows some districts to pull the lever 4 or 5 times to whites 1 time so they can elect a Hispanic. What about gerrymandering? We can never vote them out and they won’t and don’t represent the whites in these areas. No keep Washington out of the States voting. They use their power as pawns.

  • drfredc

    Seems anytime there’s a gang of politicians working in secret to do something, the common folks will end up getting ripped off.

    Gang activity rarely promotes the general welfare of anyone, nor does it secure the blessings of liberty… Anything they can’t do in the light of day by normal open door processes should best not be done…

    • johnblack45john

      Fist of this has been in the news for days now so where’s the secret? And what is wrong with ensuring anybody who has the right to vote?

      • chock

        It is determined by corrupt Washington and communist representatives and lets not forget about communist Holder. That’s the problem. Why aren’t they interested in California, Colorado who lets illegals vote. That is the true issue.

        • johnblack45john

          Bagger please. Why is it that anybody who is not an illiterate low information tea bagger like you corrupt and a Communist? Grow the hell up already.

          • chock

            As we say down south, Bless your heart and increase your dosage. Just because someone doesn’t agree with giveaways, foreign wars and rebuilding, ID to vote, don’t get mad. I don’t really care what you thing or say because people like you got us in the mess. You need to get your head out of the liberals butts and enlighten yourself before we have no country to save. Example: DOJ, IRS, dead people voting, etc, etc, etc……

          • johnblack45john

            lol. People like me got this country in the mess it is in today? You are about as dumb as a box of rocks. Who was it that got a 10 year tax breaks for the rich on their promise to create jobs which they never did with borrowed money from China that we will be repaying the next 20 years? Your idol Lord and savior Bush 2. This is the reason the national debt is as high as it is right now. Who was it that caused the $24 billion bagger shutdown? How much good did this do the country? And this certainly wasn’t done by people like me. Who is it that is trying to take away people’s right to vote? Not people like me. Who was it that got us into not one but two wars and left them unfunded along with medicare part b? Not people like me. So you need to take your revisionist history somewhere and shove it and learn to do some real research.

          • chock

            When you can’t think of something to say, start calling people names. Go home to your union controlled environment. They can give you the approved talking points of the day. Since it changes daily, I know you need their guidance.

          • johnblack45john

            When you can dispute anything I posted here get back to me. Now take your lies and nonsense back to Baggerville with all the rest of the dumbed down baggers. And I don’t use talking points I speak the truth. And you need all the help you can get because you are about as dumb as a box of rocks.

          • chock

            DId you take your meds? I must have hit a nerve.

          • johnblack45john

            lol. If you weren’t so pathetic you would be down right funny. I love it when people like you come back with crap like this when you have nothing else to offer. Where is your proof to dispute anything I posted here?

          • chock

            You are so nasty, just like your God Obammy, agree with me or I am going to call you names and go nuts. LOL

          • johnblack45john

            First off I have no God walking the face of this earth. And we have no President named Obammy you sick f**k.

          • Bill30097

            He means Ovomit, douchbag

          • johnblack45john

            And he still got t wrong bagger diuchbag. We have no president named Ovomit either. Now go back to Baggerville with the rest of the dumbed downed baggers.

          • johnblack45john

            And the next time you see a dead person rise from the grave and vote video it and upload it to youtube for all the world to see.

          • chock

            We already did, they were called democraps.

          • johnblack45john

            No you didn’t You are a dumbocrap.

  • Henry Ko

    Since liberty cannot survive if misunderstood, it is critical that liberty’s proven principles be disseminated as widely as possible.

  • G26

    Cultures with superior customs, such as liberty & free markets, have an advantage over those using primitive practices such as collectivism.

  • Thomas Aquinas

    We should remember that certain notions, such as socialism’s fatal theory of society by design, are little more than the odd notions of crazed men that have been continuously recycled within the ivory towers of detached academics.

  • camdenme2


  • tpartynitwit

    The Teatards will put the kibosh on this toot sweet. The strategy is disenfranchise as many voters as possible. Ask Catherine Engelbrecht of Bleach the Vote.

    • chock

      You are what they call a useful idiot.

      • johnblack45john

        And you are what we call a pathetic fool.

        • chock

          When you can’t debate call names. I was just telling you how they describe you. Do you think you will be the one percent? Think again.

          • johnblack45john

            And everything you said about me applies to you. And I never aspired to be a 1%er.

      • tpartynitwit

        Who are “they,” mo ron?

  • Bill30097

    If it does not have national Voter ID requirement then it should be junked.

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