Last week, in a bit of a surprise, incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran survived a Republican primary runoff in Mississippi, thanks in large part to an unexpected group of supporters: African-American voters. Though many are Democrats, many in Mississippi’s black community saw Cochran’s right-wing rival as far more offensive.
Soon after the dust settled, many of those responsible for rescuing Cochran’s career, preventing him from suffering a humiliating defeat, had an idea on how the senator can return the favor: it was time for Cochran to support the Voting Rights Amendment Act, a bill to repair the civil-rights law gutted last year by conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court.
By some measures, the request seemed fairly modest. After all, Cochran had supported the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act quite recently. All his new-found African-American allies were seeking is support for a law the senator has already backed in the recent past.
It looks like Cochran’s rescuers may need to think of some other way for him to pay his debt. Greg Sargent talked on Friday with the senator’s spokesperson.
I asked Cochran spokesman Chris Gallegos for a response. He said Cochran is “listening” to the argument over the fix, but directed me back to his previous statement praising the SCOTUS decision. He emailed:“It does appear that Tuesday’s election generally went smoothly, even as the state implemented its new voter ID law. Mississippi election officials deserve credit. The Senator would concur with Senator Rand Paul, who recently said, ‘I’m for more people voting, not less people voting.’” … For the time being, anyway, that doesn’t seem like support for the new fix.
No, it doesn’t. Rick Hasen told Greg, “This suggests that despite his apparent crucial support from African American voters in the recent primary, he doesn’t owe those voters or the people of Mississippi another look at whether Congress needs to try to fix the voting rights problems created by the SCOTUS decision.”
That’s gratitude for you.
Of course, this goes beyond Cochran.
Ari Berman noted late last week that Republican support for a revised Voting Rights Act is practically non-existent, despite the law’s bipartisan history.
The Voting Rights Act has always enjoyed strong bipartisan support. But since Barack Obama’s election, GOP-controlled states have embarked on the most significant effort to restrict access to the ballot since Reconstruction – passing new voting restrictions in twenty-two states since 2010 – and the bipartisan consensus for the VRA in Congress has collapsed.As long as support for the VRA remains divided along partisan lines, there’s no chance that a new fix for the law will pass.
When Congress last considered the VRA, support for the law was nearly unanimous – and in the Senate, it was literally unanimous – but as of this morning, the Voting Rights Amendment Act still has zero Republican co-sponsors.
It would appear, then, that GOP lawmakers were willing to support the Voting Rights Act when killing it would have been politically risky, but now that Republican-appointed justices to the Supreme Court have done the heavy lifting, gutting the law in a controversial ruling last summer, congressional Republicans are content to let the issue whither on the vine.