The U.S. Senate is moving forward with plans to consider the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell isn't happy about it. Here's the message the Kentucky Republican delivered to reporters yesterday afternoon:
"Clearly, [Democrats] want to change the subject ... to a non-existent problem with this marching out of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Again, I repeat, the Supreme Court did not strike down the Voting Rights Act. It's still on the books. There's no evidence right now anywhere in the country that states are engaged in suppressing the vote based upon race."
So, a few things.
First, the idea that Democrats are only pretending to be interested in voting rights, as part of a ruse to distract the public, is plainly silly. This has been a priority for the party for quite a while — they first took up the For the People Act last year — and Democratic leaders would be pushing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act regardless of the larger political circumstances.
Second, McConnell's insistence that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is "still on the books" is disingenuous nonsense — and he knows it. In their Shelby County v. Holder decision, Republican-appointed justices gutted the landmark civil rights legislation, making the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act necessary. For the Kentucky senator to pretend the Voting Rights Act is fine is insulting to Americans' intelligence.
Finally, I was struck by McConnell's latest pitch about his party's anti-voting efforts: "There's no evidence right now anywhere in the country that states are engaged in suppressing the vote based upon race." This is, oddly enough, a slight departure from his usual rhetoric on the subject.
In March, for example, the Senate minority leader told reporters, "States are not engaging in trying to suppress voters whatsoever." In June, McConnell pushed a similar line: "The biggest lie being told in American politics in recent weeks has been that the states are involved in a systematic effort to suppress the vote."
That rhetoric was demonstrably ridiculous, though I'm fascinated by the tweak: McConnell's new line is that there's no voter suppression based upon race.
In other words, there may be all kinds of voter-suppression measures becoming law in red states across the country — but don't worry, they're not racially discriminatory.
But that's wrong, too. The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law published a report last month that made it painfully clear that too many state legislatures "have proposed and enacted legislation to make it harder for Americans to vote, justifying these measures with falsehoods steeped in racism about election irregularities and breaches of election security."
Not surprisingly, it's communities of color that are adversely affected most. Someone should probably let McConnell know.