Reid Keeps Expectations Low On Fixing Voting Rights Act

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Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) lamented the recent spate of laws aimed at restricting voting since the Supreme Court’s decision in late June to ax a centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act.

But, notably, the Democratic leader tempered expectations when it comes to enacting a legislative fix to the portion of the 1965 law that the high court invalidated.“The Senate will debate the Voting Rights Act. We will examine these dangerous voter suppression efforts, and propose steps the Senate can take to ensure the right of every American to cast a ballot,” Reid said in a statement Wednesday.

No vow that a fix will pass into law. It was a cautious remark that underlies the extraordinary political headwinds in passing a new formula to determine which state and local governments need federal permission before changing their voting laws. Specifically, Republicans have shown little interest in fixing the law, because they have many political incentives not to and little to gain by doing so.

Some House Republicans have publicly poured cold water on the effort, including Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), the Judiciary subcommittee chief with jurisdiction over the issue.

Democrats, including Reid, have championed a fix. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is nevertheless working toward a solution and hopes to introduce a bill in September, a Democratic aide said recently. The aide didn’t have any guidance as to what the proposal would contain and admitted it would be a challenge to pass any fix to the Voting Rights Act through both houses of Congress.

“That day, Martin Luther King shared his dream and urged marchers to consider 1963 not as the end of the fight for civil rights, but as the beginning,” Reid said. “The Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act, and the subsequent enactment of laws in states like North Carolina, Texas, and Mississippi, that attempt to make it harder for the poor and minorities to vote, indicate that we still have a long way to go to realize Dr. King’s dream.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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