“Well, good luck,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told McClatchy Newspapers on Tuesday. “I don’t think the current Congress has much of a chance to decide it one way or the other because of conflicts in the Congress. That’s a very touchy, very difficult, very sensitive area that’s very difficult to handle.”
Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, was more succinct: “As long as Republicans have a majority in the House and Democrats don’t have 60 votes in the Senate, there will be no pre-clearance,” he told reporters.
Still, Democrats say they’re going to try. Sen. Mike Begich of Alaska said he expects the chamber’s Democrats to come up with a new voting rights formula when the Senate returns from its July 4th recess.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s non-voting Democrat in the House, doubts that Congress will take up the Voting Rights Act issue this year. But she took a glass-half-full approach to the Supreme Court’s action. It could have been worse, she said, the court could have scuttled the entire Voting Rights Act.
As for whether a politically-poisoned Congress has the will to deal with the Voting Rights Act now, Norton noted that the lawmakers presented a unified front in 2006 when a rewrite of the Act passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
“The entire Congress stood behind the entire leadership and said ‘We are all for this bill,’” Norton told reporters. “I can’t imagine what they’ll say now: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was among them, House Speaker John Boehner was among them. Can they say ‘Although we stood here in 2006, we’re not going to try to update the formula?’ I don’t think they can say that with any credibility.”
But there was something Tuesday that should give Norton and other voting rights advocates pause: Republicans McConnell, Boehner, and Rep. James Sensenbrenner, who were a driving force in the 2006 Voting Rights Act renewal, were largely silent following the Supreme Court’s decision.