Biden Admin Endorses Voting Rights Bill Named After John Lewis (AP)
By Cathy Burke | Monday, 23 August 2021 05:17 PM
A voting rights bill named after the late civil rights champion John Lewis has received an official endorsement from the Biden administration ahead of House action that includes a flurry of high-profile bills.
The House returns from its recess this week to take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the resolution for Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget package and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bill that aims to refortify and restore the key civil rights law that bans racial discrimination in voting and redistricting.
Also known as H.R. 4, its purpose is to reinstate the federal preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013.
The preclearance required states and jurisdictions with histories of discrimination to get approval from the Department of Justice before making any change to voting procedures.
“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 said in a statement Monday, The Hill reported.
“These efforts violate the most basic ideals of America.”
“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.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland recently voiced his support of “the preclearance regime,” calling it “enormously effective” in an opinion piece in the Washington Post. "While it was in place, the Justice Department blocked thousands of discriminatory voting changes," he wrote.
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 Hill reported. The ruling left in place a pair of Arizona voting rights restrictions.
H.R. 4 is the congressional Democrats’ main strategy to combat the wave of state-level voting restrictions that have been proposed or passed across the country, the Hill reported. And while it can pass the House without bipartisan support, it will need 10 Republican votes in the Senate to overcome the chamber’s filibuster, the news outlet noted.
Centrist Sens. Lisa Murkowksi, R-Alaska, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have urged bipartisan agreement on the issue but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has called H.R. 4 “unnecessary," The Hill reported.
OMB’s policy statement on H.R. 4 noted 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.