Nov 14, 2013

Voting Rights Repair Act Is Not Going Happen in 2013

Updated - Congress really sucks.

Politicians are regarded by the American people whom they represent as almost pathologically dishonest, corrupt and incompetent.

Here is Wisconsin, we seem to grow a more noxious breed.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) is a case in point.

Wrote Fox News political analyst, Juan Williams in September, a few short months after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder:

The big surprise at the Republican National Committee’s lunch celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington was the loud ovation for an elderly white conservative.

The tall, 70-year-old Congressman hobbled to the front of the room with a cane. He had to be helped up the stairs to the stage. But once he reached the microphone, his call for Congress to restore the full power of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) had the crowd scrambling to get to their feet and applaud him.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) defied political stereotypes and several other Republicans when he announced an end-of-the-year deadline for reviving the pre-clearance provision of the VRA.

“I am committed to restoring the Voting Rights Act as an effective tool to prevent discrimination,” said Sensenbrenner to repeated cheers. He was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when a bipartisan group approved reauthorization of the VRA in 2006.

“This is something that has to be done by the end of the year so that a revised and constitutional Voting Rights Act is in place by the 2014 elections — both the primaries and general election,” Sensenbrenner told his largely black Republican audience.

End of the year. That what's Sensenbrenner said. Wow, the RNC must really like the Voting Rights Act.

Williams, whose gushing piece is housed at Sensenbrenner's congressional website, is impressed.

He should not be.

Now, there is word that Sensenbrenner is working with the NAACP on a new formulation of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act eviscerated by Shelby County v. Holder in June, working hand-in-hand with the likes of Hilary Shelton, Washington Bureau Director of NAACP, a giant of a civil rights worker.

But drafting, introducing and passing restorative Voting Right Act legislation in the House in 2013 is not going to happen.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner has scheduled only a handful of legislative days for the rest of the year, to no objection from Sensenbrenner, giving his members of Congress some more long paid vacations.

In any event there is no way the House is going to lift its collective finger on repairing the GOP justices' damage to the Voting Rights Act, and there is no way Sensenbrenner is going to do anything beyond lip service when introduction occurs.

This is the same Sensenbrenner who is a major supporter of GOP voter obstruction laws and his office said Sensenbrenner can't comment on Wisconsin's very own state voter obstruction law now on federal trial "as it is a state law," the precise type of law the Voting Rights Act was designed to stop.

In August 2013, Sensenbrenner had a change of heart on commenting on state voter obstruction laws after Attorney General Holder said he was going to challenge Texas' onerous Photo Voter ID law under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act: Sensenbrenner.

Sensenbrenner was the chair of House Committee on the Judiciary from 2001-2007 when the Voting Right Act came up for reauthorization, and it was virtually assured passage, facing opposition only from southern racist Republicans.

In 2005-06, Sensenbrenner was chair of the House Judiciary Committee so he likes to preen that he was the champion of the renewal of the various sections of the Voting Rights Act that passed 390-33 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate and, history should remember, was signed into law by President George W. Bush.

In fact, Bush did one hell of a job of conjuring LBJ in the White House, and as noted by Gary May and Joseph Morgan Kousser cajoled Congress into passing a 25-year reauthorization in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Writes May:

(D)uring his second term Bush found it necessary to court black voters. The president's slow response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, which hurt blacks disproportionally and revealed again the presence of widespread poverty in the South, damaged Bush's standing. In an attempt to recoup his political fortunes as congressional elections approached in 2006, Bush turned to the black community. On a trip to Memphis visited the Loraine Motel and stood on the balcony where Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. He also agreed to address the NAACP's annual convention, which he had ignored for six years. There Bush was received coolly but won a standing ovation when he expressed his support for the Voting Rights Act, urging congress to enact it then, one year before it was due to expire. This was not simply rhetoric. Behind the scenes Bush's staff encouraged Republicans, who now controlled both houses of Congress, to extend the Act. And this time the Republican congressional leadership in both the House and Senate were receptive to such appeals because if you weren't a southerner, there was no political payoff for attacking the now-iconic Voting Right Act. (pp 273-274)

So, House Judiciary Committee Sensenbrenner was going to defy Bush and Rove on the Voting Rights Act reauthorization of 2006? Right.

Sensenbrenner is no champion of the Voting Rights Act. Sensenbrenner is a fraud of the worst kind, in this writer's harsh opinion. Not withstanding Sensenbrenner negotiating with the NAACP this Autumn, no chance will he cross his party's leadership and the Tea Party.

On a final note, to give you an idea of the utter incompetence of Congress, after culling through legislative databases looking for legislation, I called  Rep. John Lewis' office asking the person answering the phone if he could transfer me to someone who could confirm no bill had been introduced repairing Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The kid did not know what the Voting Rights Act is.

I talked to a staffer as House Judiciary Committee posing the same question. I received another, "I don't know."

Several other phone calls yielded similar protestations of ignorance of whether the crown jewel of the civil rights movement may have had a bill introduced to repair the obscene act committed by the five GOP partisans on the U.S. Supreme Court.

I don't care for the Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court and corrupt members of Congress, but at least they are not as fracking dumb as staffers in Congress.

As for Sensenbrenner, action and passed legislation do speak louder than words.

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