WASHINGTON, DC This morning the House Republican leadership announced that it was pulling the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006" (H.R. 9) from Floor consideration today. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) was signed into law by President Johnson in direct response to voting rights marches that were led by Dr. Martin Luther King in March of 1965.
The first march was slated to go from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The marchers, who set out on March 7, made it only six blocks before being turned back because of a violent assault by state and local police that ultimately resulted in 2 deaths. Dr. King finally succeeded in reaching Montgomery on March 25 under the protection of the Federal District Court. He set out with 3200 marchers and arrived in Montgomery with 25,000. President Johnson signed the VRA into law on August 6, 1965, less than 5 months after the completion of the final march.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice:
"Congress determined that the existing federal anti-discrimination laws were not sufficient to overcome the resistance by state officials to enforcement of the 15th Amendment. The legislative hearings showed that the Department of Justice's efforts to eliminate discriminatory election practices by litigation on a case-by-case basis had been unsuccessful in opening up the registration process; as soon as one discriminatory practice or procedure was proven to be unconstitutional and enjoined, a new one would be substituted in its place and litigation would have to commence anew."
The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified by 29 of the 37 states on March 30, 1870. The amendment provides that, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
The VRA overcame the problems that the Justice Department had met in trying to enforce the 15th Amendment. The VRA has long been hailed as landmark legislation.
In response to the setback today, House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD), who represents southern Maryland, released the following statement:
It is extremely unfortunate and disappointing that the Republican leadership has pulled this bipartisan bill, which reauthorizes for 25 years key provisions of the Voting Rights Act that are set to expire in 2007. Clearly, there are some on the Republican side who object to this legislation and they forced the leaderships hand today. House Democrats stand in virtual unanimous support for this important bill, and we believe that we must pass this bipartisan legislation without delay.
This legislation is a recognition that our democratic system is not perfect. The specter of discrimination still haunts us, and we have a responsibility to be vigilant in protecting the most elemental expression of equality in democracy the right to vote.
I commend Congressman Mel Watt, the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner for all of their hard work on this legislation. It is my hope and expectation that Republican leaders will be able to address any objections to this bill on their side of the aisle and that it will be rescheduled for Floor consideration as soon as possible.
Full Information about H.R. 9 from LOC's Thomas
Background on the VRA provided by civilrights.org
Introduction To Federal Voting Rights Laws
The Voting Rights March from Selma to Montgomery