The Supreme Court last week didn’t actually eliminate the protections of the Voting Rights Act; the high court majority simply tasked Congress with “fixing” it with new standards, which has the practical effect of eliminating the Voting Rights Act.
But wait, many argue, isn’t it at least possible lawmakers will act on this? After all, the VRA has enjoyed broad, bipartisan support for many years, so it’s hardly unrealistic to think Congress can come together on this, right?
It’s too early in the process to definitely rule out possible outcomes, but consider what we’ve seen in recent days.
On Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers appear very eager to find a legislative remedy to secure the protections of the Voting Rights Act. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) is already moving forward with hearings, set to begin shortly after the Fourth of July recess. What’s more, on Friday, leading House Dems met in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office to “brainstorm” ways to restore the law.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has also said he’ll hold hearings, but doesn’t sound especially optimistic.
The Virginia Republican said he doesn’t know whether Congress will work to change the law so that it’s considered constitutional by the justices. “We will look at what the Supreme Court was talking about in terms of old data,” Goodlatte said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’ll 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.”
Pressed by CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley on whether he predicts any specific activity on the issue from his committee, he said: “We don’t know yet.”
And at the state level, Republican policymakers, suddenly freed from the burdens of worrying about discrimination, are moving with remarkable speed to approve new voting restrictions that would have been too racist to be permissible up until six days ago.
The GOP incentive to leave the Voting Rights Act in tatters is likely to stand in the way of a congressional “fix.”