House Democrats are discussing plans to soon take up a voting rights package as a tribute to the late Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who championed the right to vote for decades as both a civil rights activist and congressman.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) has been privately leading the effort — which would renew and expand the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — and could reach the floor before the August recess, according to Democratic sources. The package would likely combine some of the Democrats’ previous legislative proposals to shore up voting access, which were passed last year.
The House voted to expand the decades-old Voting Rights Act in December. Democrats could also decide to simply rename that bill for Lewis, who died on Friday, without formally taking up the bill.
But Clyburn and other Democrats say they hope they can pressure more than a single Republican to support their legislation as the nation mourns the loss of a man who bore physical scars from police beatings as he fought for voting rights on “Bloody Sunday.”
Over the weekend, Clyburn urged President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans to pass a bill to expand voting rights, and proposed naming the bill after the beloved Georgia Democrat. Clyburn did not outline any of his plans for another House package.
“It should be the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020. That’s the way to do it. Words may be powerful, but deeds are lasting,” Clyburn told CNN on Sunday.
Democrats had passed their signature voting rights bill, known as H.R. 4, in December. That bill would restore a key piece of the Voting Rights Act that had been eroded by a landmark Supreme Court decision six years ago — eliminating a rule that required states with a history of voter discrimination to obtain federal approval before changing any of its rules on voting.
The Democrats’ bill would bring back that requirement, which they say has led to voter suppression tactics in many states, such as strict voter ID rules that disproportionately affect lower income Americans.
It was their second major bill dealing with voting access: the House had already approved a major bill, known as H.R. 1, to deal with government ethics, voting rights and money in politics. That bill would limit efforts to purge voting rolls, create a national voter-registration program and make Election Day a federal holiday to ensure more people can go to the polls.
Both bills have languished in the Senate.
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, also said Sunday that Democrats should renew their push to expand the Voting Rights Act, despite resistance from the GOP.
“I think one of the best ways that we could honor him is to make sure that the Voting Rights Act passed, that is sitting over in the Senate and has been there for over 200 days,” the California Democrat told ABC’s “This Week.”