The prospect of a Texas House Republican chairing the Judiciary Committee motivated Democrats to compromise earlier this year on a bill that would reauthorize and amend the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Amazingly enough, they prefer James "lock up the illegal immigrants" Sensenbrenner to Lamar Smith. It just goes to show how radically conservative the House GOP leadership is. It also shows how Democrats have no spine to stand up for the right thing, and trust the voters to help them.
Democrats and civil-rights leaders compromised on measures regarding voter protection, including those to curb the use of photo-ID laws, to ensure that a bill would be passed before the bill sponsor, committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), gives up his gavel at the end of the legislative session, according to several Democratic sources in the House, including multiple committee staffers.
One House staffer who works for a CBC member said the Democratic leaders’ concern was so great that they told CBC members not to campaign too intensely for the bill for fear that it would splinter the bipartisan coalition and delay a vote. This deal was brokered long before tension between Pelosi and the CBC surfaced after Pelosi asked Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) to step down from the Ways and Means Committee.
In my book, the only legitimate complaint that Southern House Reps have against the VRA is that the section 5 clearance by the DOJ should not be limited to the South. There is racism in New York, in Maryland, in Massachusetts, in Indiana, in Illinois, in California...in every state. Both parties use racial demographics to draw line for state legislative and congressional districts, but they pretend it is "communities of interest" and the like.
Republicans like to pack the minorities into as few districts as possible, and CBC-type minority politicans love to have a safe seat. Democratic leaders tend to try to spread out the minorities, especially African-Americans as much as possible so as to increase their chances at picking up seats.
So why would House Dems allow tried and true voter suppression tactics like ID cards be permissible under the VRA? Because they are afraid of a different chairman? Shouldn't they be licking their chops at having African-American and voting rights champaign John Conyers in charge in January if the Dems take back the House? Why cave now when you can beat the GOP over the head with it and get a better bill later?
No matter what, Dems are going to pick up seats in both chambers and the Senate will be able to craft a better bill than this. So why the rush? Are they too chicken?
UPDATE:Rick Hansen over at Election Law Blog reports:
Last night the Rules Committee voted to table H. Res. 878, which had provided for the rule on debate of VRA renewal (that's the deal that allowed two proposed amendments, the Norwood amendment and the Westmoreland amendment). It appears then that the details of the VRA renewal debate will have to be renegotiated, and that's likely not to happen until after the July 4 recess.
Is this because of the compromise that the Dems made? Even with 152 co-sponsors and the political goldmine of holding up VRA? I hope I am wrong.