After defeating several amendments that would have neutered legislation to renew key sections of the Voting Rights Act set to expire next year, the U.S. House of Representatives finally passed the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act last week by a vote of 390-33.
No Democrat voted against the bill and Republicans approved it by a margin of 192-33. The bill now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to easily win approval before the August recess.
We should never forget the 33 members of the Hall of Shame: Jo Bonner and Terry Everett of Alabama; Trent Franks and John B. Shadegg of Arizona; Wally Herger, John T. Doolittle, Edward R. Royce, Gary G. Miller, Dana Rohrabacher, John Campbell, all of California; Joel Hefly and Thomas G. Tancredo of Colorado; Tom Price, John Linder, Lynn A. Westmoreland, Charlie Norwood, Nathan Deal and Phil Gingrey, all of Georgia; Dan Burton of Indiana, Iowa's Steve King, Richard H. Baker of Louisiana, Roscoe G. Barlett of Maryland, New Jersey's Scott Garrett; Virginia Foxx and Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina; South Carolina's J. Gresham Barrett, John J. Duncan Jr. from Tennessee and six from Texas: Sam Johnson, Jeb Hensarling, Joe Barton, K. Michael Conaway, Mac Thornberry and Ron Paul.
That any member of Congress would vote against such important legislation would be bad enough. But I have even less respect for the hypocrites who voted for crippling amendments to the legislation and after those efforts failed, voted for the final measure so that they could save face.
In an effort to gut the Voting Rights measure, four amendments were offered in the House:
• Amendment 4, proposed by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., would have the Attorney General make an annual determination of whether certain jurisdictions must meet the Section 5 preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act as well as shift the burden of proving whether a community has stopped discriminating from the jurisdiction to the Justice Department.
• Amendment 8, sponsored by another Republican from Georgia, Charlie Norwood, would use turnout figures from the three previous presidential elections rather than past record of discrimination to determine which states are covered under the act. Based on figures from the 1996, 2000 and 2004 elections, it would essentially repeal Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
• Amendment 7 would repeal Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act that provides language assistance to voters who have difficulty speaking English. And Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) proposed a reauthorization period of 10 years rather than 25.
A band of Southern legislators almost derailed the bill by claiming that their region was being treated unfairly. However, Congressional hearings showed Black voters were the real victims.
For a complete list of how every Congressperson voted on each amendment and the final bill, go to my blog (no www) currying favor.blogspot.com.
Three co-sponsors of the amendment to repeal the language assistance provision of the Voting Rights Act — Candice S. Miller of Michigan, Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida and Spencer Bachus of Alabama — voted for the final measure after their effort to kill that section of the legislation was easily defeated.
Evidently, lawmakers expected us to be satisfied with their final vote and not be aware of their disingenuous behavior. But they guessed wrong. And now we should do what the old lady in church tells us to do after reading the Sunday announcements: Govern yourselves accordingly.
George E. Curry is editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service.