Hoyer optimistic on voting rights bill

 

 

A senior Democrat on Tuesday said he was “hopeful” the House would approve new voting rights legislation by the summer, despite the lack of an endorsement from the Republican leadership.

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“We are very hopeful that we will pass a voting rights bill and do so in the near term, hopefully in the next couple of months,” Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said during his weekly briefing with reporters.

Hoyer over the weekend participated in an annual bipartisan pilgrimage to the South commemorating the civil rights movement. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also attended events on the trip, and Hoyer said he planned to meet with Cantor this week to discuss a legislative response to the 2013 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Cantor has joined the pilgrimage with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights leader, for the past two years, but he has yet to take a position on a bill that Lewis wrote with GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (Wis.).

A Cantor spokeswoman, Megan Whittemore, said he had been meeting with lawmakers and groups, including Lewis, the NAACP and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, in search of a consensus on legislation. "The majority leader believes this is an important issue and wants to make sure we preserve every American's right to vote,” Whittemore said. “Right now, there are still concerns on all sides of the issue on exactly the right path forward, but we are hopeful we can find consensus.”

She did not set a timetable for House action.

The Sensenbrenner-Lewis proposal updates the formula by which the federal government determines which states need approval from Washington to change their voting laws. The high court, in a 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, ruled that the current formula was outdated and unconstitutional.

Hoyer acknowledged that some Democrats felt the Sensenbrenner-Lewis proposal did not go far enough, but added that he supported it out of recognition that it needed to pass “in a bipartisan context.”

“I don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good, or even progress,” he said.

Democrats have campaigned against efforts by some Republican-led states to enact voter ID laws and other policies they say would represent barriers to voting for minorities.

The biggest opposition to new voting rights legislation has come from the right, where many conservatives agree with the Supreme Court ruling, and others, Hoyer suggested, who simply do not want to make it easier to vote.

“We ought not to delude ourselves or pretend there aren’t some who believe that limiting the number of voters through various means is advantageous to some,” Hoyer said.

He said Cantor did not commit his support during their “brief” chat in Mississippi.

“He made no representation other than he wanted to look at it and he seriously wanted to talk about it,” Hoyer said of the majority leader.