Senate committee moving forward on Voting Rights Act

Updated
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., left, and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., right, co-chairs of the Civil Rights Taskforce of the Congressional Black Caucus, join members...
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., left, and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., right, co-chairs of the Civil Rights Taskforce of the Congressional Black Caucus, join members...
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin holding hearings next week on the future of the Voting Rights Act after the heart of the landmark legislation was gutted by the Supreme Court last month, Chairman Patrick Leahy said Wednesday.

During the hearing, titled “From Selma to Shelby County: Working Together to Restore the Protections of the Voting Rights Act,” senators will hear testimony on the way forward in the wake of the recent Court ruling that functionally weakened the Justice Department in its ability to block discriminatory laws before they went into effect in certain states and jurisdictions.

Civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis will testify at the hearing, Leahy said, along with Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican who has already signaled his willingness to move forward on new legislation designed to restore the gap left in the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court’s recent decision.

Sensenbrenner led the House Judiciary Committee when Congress last reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006, and has been a champion of the law. He has also criticized Attorney General Eric Holder for exercising the Justice Department’s authority under the law to block voter ID laws, calling Holder opposition to those types of laws “legally undisciplined allegations.”

“The Voting Rights Act has been a central pillar of the civil rights laws that have helped bring America’s ideals closer to reality for all Americans,” Leahy said. “Congress reauthorized this law with overwhelming bipartisan support, and we again must work together to ensure that no Americans are discriminated against when exercising their fundamental right to vote.”

“I look forward to hearing next week from Congressman Lewis and Congressman Sensenbrenner, two lawmakers who were instrumental in the 2006 reauthorization and who I hope to work closely with again this year,” he added.

Wednesday’s hearing will be the first of many in the Senate, Leahy has said.

The Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee has been less forthcoming on their plans to revisit the landmark civil rights legislation. Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte told CNN last week that his committee will “look at what new data is available and we will make sure that people’s freedom to vote in elections in this country is protected,” but refused to promise to hold hearings on the issue.

Meanwhile, as msnbc’s Zack Roth pointed out last week, some Democrats are hoping to use the opportunity to bolster the legislation.

The Senate Committee’s first hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, July 17, at 2 p.m. ET.

Senate committee moving forward on Voting Rights Act

Updated