White House voices support for John Lewis voting rights bill

White House voices support for John Lewis voting rights bill

The Biden administration officially gave the John LewisJohn LewisAlyssa Milano arrested at White House voting rights protest Kinzinger defends not supporting voting rights act: 'Democrats have to quit playing politics' What's at stake if Trump wins in 2024? Single-party authoritarian rule MORE Voting Rights Advancement Act its stamp of approval on Monday, as the House is set to reconvene this week to pass the bill along with a flurry of other high-profile legislation. 

“Some have sought to delegitimize the [November 2020] election and make it harder to vote, in many cases by targeting the methods of voting that made it possible for many voters to participate,” the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said in a statement. 

“These efforts violate the most basic ideals of America.”

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House Democrats officially introduced the bill named after late Georgia congressman and voting rights champion John Lewis (D) last week.

Known formally as H.R. 4, the legislation will seek to reinstate the federal preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act, which was rendered moot in 2013 by the Supreme Court.

The preclearance required states and jurisdictions with histories of racial discrimination — largely the Jim Crow South — to gain approval from the Department of Justice before implementing any change to voting procedure. 

In its decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the formula used to create the preclearance threshold was outdated and therefore unconstitutional. 

However, Chief Justice John Roberts at the time made it clear that Congress had the authority to update the formula. 

“In an essay published shortly after he died, Congressman John Lewis wrote, 'Democracy is not a state. It is an act,'” OMB continued.   

“This bill not only bears his name, it heeds his call.”

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which advocates argue took a hit in July from a separate Supreme Court ruling, is also addressed in the bill.

The ruling left in place a pair of Arizona voting rights restrictions, much to the consternation of Democrats.

In a searing dissent, Associate Justice Elena KaganElena KaganSupreme Court considers Kentucky AG's power to defend abortion restriction Alito bristles over criticism of Supreme Court's 'shadow docket' North Carolina voting rights ruling offers a model of anti-racist jurisprudence MORE, one of the top court’s remaining liberal voices, wrote: “What is tragic here is that the Court has (yet again) rewritten — in order to weaken — a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness, and protects against its basest impulses.”

Along with the For the People Act, H.R. 4 is congressional Democrats’ main strategy to combat the wave of state-level voting restrictions that have been proposed or passed across the country.

Since the beginning of the year, hundreds of restrictive voting laws have been introduced in Republican-controlled state legislatures. 

These efforts have seen dozens of these bills become law in 18 states, including in battlegrounds such as Florida, Georgia and Arizona. 

Democrats have blamed the wave of bills on what they call the “big lie” — the baseless claim by former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE that the election was stolen from him through rampant voter fraud. 

Republicans have adamantly dismissed the argument, citing the need for greater integrity in the country’s elections. 

Nonetheless, the new state voter laws will most likely have an impact on burgeoning midterm elections that are crucial for both parties. 

And with Democrats’ other voting rights bill — the For the People Act — on its last legs in the Senate thanks to zero Republican support, the John Lewis bill is Democrats' last chance to pass meaningful legislation on voting rights before the end of the year. 

While H.R. 4 can pass the House without bipartisan support, it will need 10 Republican votes in the Senate to overcome the chamber’s filibuster.

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Moderate Sens. Lisa Murkowksi (R-Alaska) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Progressives see budget deal getting close after Biden meeting Democrats at odds with Manchin over child tax credit provision MORE (D-W.Va.) have urged bipartisanship on the issue, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFixing Congress requires fixing how it legislates McConnell: GOP should focus on future, not 'rehash' 2020 Hoyer: Democrats 'committed' to Oct. 31 timeline for Biden's agenda MORE (R-Ky.) has called the H.R. 4 “unnecessary.” 

The lack of GOP votes has led many Democrats to call for the end to the filibuster, something that moderates like Manchin don’t condone. 

A new exception to the filibuster that would allow voting rights legislation to bypass the procedural rule has been floated by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), but hasn’t gained significant buy-in.

President BidenJoe BidenWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE, a longtime member of the Senate, has continued to stop short of supporting such a move, despite increasing pressure from members of his own party.  

OMB’s policy statement on H.R. 4 noted that the White House “looks forward to working with Congress as the [voting rights legislation] proceeds through the legislative process,” but didn’t mention the filibuster.