Dem leaders push voting rights fix

Dem leaders push voting rights fix
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Top House Democrats on Wednesday raised pressure on Republicans to consider legislation restoring the voting protections shot down by the Supreme Court last year.

Marking the one-year anniversary of the court's Shelby County v. Holder decision, the Democrats urged House GOP leaders to take up the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act this summer, in time for November's midterm elections. 

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At a rally of advocates on the east lawn of the Capitol, Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse approves 'right to try,' sends bill to Trump's desk Hillicon Valley: Mnuchin urges antitrust review of tech | Progressives want to break up Facebook | Classified election security briefing set for Tuesday | Tech CEOs face pressure to appear before Congress Pelosi: Discharge petition won't promote Trump's wall MORE (D-Md.), the minority whip, urged the crowd to be "non-violent militants" in pushing Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act (VRA) update.

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiExclusive: Bannon says Rosenstein could be fired 'very shortly' Dem targeted by party establishment loses Texas primary Overnight Finance: House sends Dodd-Frank rollbacks to Trump | What's in the bill | Trump says there is 'no deal' to help ZTE | Panel approves bill to toughen foreign investment reviews MORE (D-Calif.) characterized the Shelby ruling as "destructive," and invoked the passage of the original 1965 law as impetus for Congress to ensure the same protections are in place in 2014. 

"It changed America, it made us more American, it was long overdue. … What better way to observe that greatness … than to pass the Voting Rights [Amendment] Act?" Pelosi said.

"We have a bipartisan bill; it isn't the bill we would have written … but it does correct the decision of the court," she added. "We're calling upon the Speaker of the House to give us our vote on this bill so that we can protect the votes of millions of people."

She might not want to hold her breath. 

While the VRAA has the backing of several prominent Republicans — including former Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerLawmakers question FBI director on encryption Doug Collins to run for House Judiciary chair Lawmakers renew call for end to 'black budget' secrecy MORE (Wis.), who helped draft the bill — GOP leaders have been less than enthusiastic about moving the proposal on the floor.

Judiciary Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — How long can a Trump-DOJ accord survive? Key House chairman floats changes to immigration bill This week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure MORE (R-Va.) has shown no interest in examining the proposal in his committee. Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election Scalise allies upset over Ryan blindside on McCarthy endorsement MORE (R-Va.) has expressed support for the concept but hasn't endorsed the bill, and his stunning primary defeat earlier in the month has tempered much of his influence in the GOP conference.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFreedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights GOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan Can Jim Jordan become top House Republican? MORE (R-Ohio) said last week that, while "conversations are going to continue" in search of a response to the Shelby decision, he has "no idea" if the House will consider legislation this year.

"You'll have to talk to those who are working on it," he told reporters last Thursday.

In its 5-4 Shelby decision, the Supreme Court found that, while Congress has the power to monitor elections for fairness, the VRA formula dictating which states must get federal pre-clearance before altering their voting rules is outdated and therefore invalid. 

Chief Justice John Roberts invited Congress to "draft another formula based on current conditions."

Sensenbrenner's bill, introduced with Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersConyers III won't appear on primary ballot in race to replace his father Conyers's son in danger of missing ballot in Michigan Eric Schneiderman and #MeToo pose challenges for both parties MORE (D-Mich.), aims to do just that, creating a new formula based on violations of voter protections spanning the last 15 years. Under the updated bill, the number of states requiring federal pre-clearance would drop from nine to four.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who introduced companion legislation in the upper chamber, held a hearing Wednesday to promote his proposal. 

Foreshadowing a tough road ahead, Leahy lamented that "not a single Senate Republican" has endorsed the measure.