Voting Rights Restoration So Not Happenin’ for House Republicans

So is it possible the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery march that led to the speedy adoption of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 could lead to its restoration today, after its vitiation by the Supreme Court in 2013? You might hope so after listening to the president’s direct challenge to the GOP to remember its own voting rights heritage, and the embarrassed air of some Republicans in Selma who behaved as though the subject had just temporarily slipped their memories (viz. Sen Rob Portman of Ohio, who when asked if he’d support a Voting Rights Act “fix” asked “Is there a Senate version?” Uh, yeah, there is).

But as Greg Sargent notes this morning, after a conversation with Cook Political Report‘s House wizard David Wasserman, the House Republicans who would have to cooperate with any Voting Rights Act repair have little or no political incentive to do so:

“A strong plurality of House Republicans are from the south, and their strategy has been to pack African Americans into one district across some southern states, and preserve every other district for themselves,” Wasserman of the Cook Political report tells me. He adds that Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee each have one such black-heavy district, while North Carolina has two.

Selma is a good example. It’s in the Seventh Congressional District in Alabama, but as Wasserman notes, Republicans have “drawn every African American into the seventh district so they can have a six-to-one advantage [in the state].”

“House Republicans are pretty happy with the status quo in the south — particularly the fact that packing African Americans has led to safe Republican surrounding districts,” Wasserman continues. “Any efforts to newly implement a pre-clearance regime could interfere with that status quo.”

“Republicans aren’t going to bring something to the floor that is supported by 40 of them, but opposed by 200 of them,” Wasserman says.

That’s right. If you assume there is a limit on the number of times John Boehner can violate the “Hastert Rule” and pass a bill with Democratic votes, he’s probably already there with the recent maneuver to head off a DHS funding shutoff, and he may need another to get through the next manufactured crisis over the debt limit. He’s sure as hell not going to honk off southern conservatives by conspiring with Democrats to empower the Justice Department to mess with Sovereign States on the behalf of those people.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.