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August 23, 2013 12:58 PM Show Us a Bill

By Ed Kilgore

Via Brother Benen, we learn that one of the few undoubtedly sincere Republican supporters of an effort to repair the damage done to the Voting Rights Act by the U.S. Supreme Court, Rep. James Sensenbrenner of WI, is asking the Attorney General to stop messing with Texas by suing to stop its voter ID law on grounds that it would destroy prospects for a congressional “fix.” Here’s Steve’s comment:

I don’t blame Sensenbrenner for this, but literally every indication suggests congressional Republicans intend to block efforts to pass a new-and-improved Voting Rights Act. The Attorney General has a simple calculation to make: protect Americans against discriminatory voter-suppression tactics or wait for the House GOP to work in a bipartisan fashion on voting rights.

I’d have an even more basic argument: if in the judgment of the Attorney General the Texas law violates the Voting Rights Act, it is his responsibility to take advantage of existing enforcement mechanisms to challenge it. It’s a bit illogical to think that congressional Republicans who object to Holder’s use of the far-less-reaching Section 2 remedies will, if he eschews them, support efforts to restore his powers under Section 5 (via an “updating” of Section 4).

More to the point, if Sensenbrenner is right that a less aggressive enforcement regimen by the Justice Department could significantly lift prospects of a Section 4 “fix,” he should show us a bill with some Republican cosponsors. Otherwise, he’s just asking Holder not to do his job while providing cover for his less enlightened colleagues who would like to see the entire Voting Rights Act consigned to the dustbin of history.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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