WASHINGTON — One year after the Supreme Court struck down section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, Congress is nowhere near close to moving forward with restoring a federal approval requirement for certain voting process changes.
While Democratic leaders rallied this week to urge Congress to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act — a law to rewrite the section 4 formula — a top House Republican said Thursday the bill wasn't going to move quickly, if at all.
The VRAA, written by Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner and Michigan Democrat John Conyers, is viewed in Congress and by outside advocates as the best chance to reinstate some of the provisions. Section 4 was the formula used to determine which states needs pre-clearance from the federal government for changes to their voting laws. The Supreme Court ruled that the formula was outdated and Congress could come up with a new one.
Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, whose committee would be in charge of moving the bill, told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor that there was no real urgency to address the changes made by the court and he would "examine carefully" any bill on the Voting Rights Act.
"His bill is one of many different ideas and suggestions on addressing this issue. And there's a great deal of dispute in many quarters on how this should be addressed and of course, and whether it should be addressed," Goodlatte said. "We're going to continue to examine the problem but that's as far as we've got."
Goodlatte also argued that the Voting Rights Act "largely is standing" and noted that his committee held a hearing on the topic shortly after the Supreme Court decision.
That will likely not be much of a relief to members pushing for a fix, including Sensenbrenner who expressed some frustration earlier this month calling progress on the bill "a work in progress." Members working on the bill had hoped earlier in the year that the support of Majority Leader Eric Cantor would help get the bill to the floor. However, Cantor's surprising loss has left them looking for a path forward.
Several members of the Democratic leadership rallied for the bill in front of the Capitol on Wednesday with dozens of activists, to try and keep the pressure on Republicans to bring the bill to the floor.
"We need to be militants today, non-violent militants. Peaceful militants, but impatient militants. Demanding militants," said Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. "That America is what it is because Americans have the right, inherent right — 'we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men and women are created equal' — and have the right in our democracy to vote, to express their opinion, to speak out, and to be heard."
This article has been updated to clarify some language.