Voting Rights Act Rewrite Hinges on Little-Known Republicans
There’s a ready temptation for those who dismiss any talk that Congress might agree on a way to revamp the Voting Rights Act.
Look no further, they might say, than the ideologically opposite lawmakers who have become the most visible players on the future of the law:
- John Lewis, the Atlanta Democrat and venerated hero of the civil rights movement, chosen to be the opening witness before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
- Trent Franks, the outspoken social conservative from Arizona who cast one of only 33 votes against the current voting rights law. GOP leaders picked him to preside over Thursday’s House Judiciary session.
Making back-to-back images of Lewis and Franks shorthand for the inevitable impasse over rewriting the statute may be expedient for both sides’ partisan interests. But there’s still a long-shot chance it could prove premature.
If there’s a shot at a deal in the next year, it may rest with two other House members who are hardly as well-known to those who watch cable television news. They are Republicans who have quite different, but equally pressing, incentives for bolstering protections for voting.
One is Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who chaired Judiciary when the Voting Rights Act was last updated in 2006. Now that the Supreme Court has struck down a central element of one of his most important legislative achievements, Sensenbrenner is ready to devote the twilight of his almost-four-decade career to winning a more lasting bipartisan triumph the second time around.
Read more on Roll Call: Voting Rights Act Rewrite Hinges on Little-Known Republicans