The House passed new voting rights legislation this week named for the late Rep. John Lewis in an effort to combat a wave of voting restrictions proposed in Republican-led states.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4) would restore a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act gutted by the Supreme Court. It would require states to get preclearance from the Justice Department before making any changes to voting laws or putting in place new voting requirements.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who was tapped by President Biden to spearhead the administration’s push for voting rights legislation, issued a statement following the passage of H.R. 4.
“Congressman John Lewis was an American hero who dedicated his life to fighting for our nation’s highest ideals,” Harris said. “Today, the House of Representatives honored Congressman Lewis by passing his namesake legislation, which restores and expands the historic Voting Rights Act. This important step represents progress, but there is more work to do. The Senate must pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act so it can become the law of the land and protect voters across the country.”
President Biden and Democratic lawmakers have been unable to move a more sweeping voting rights bill, the For the People Act (S. 1), in the Senate. That bill also passed the House in March on a party-line vote but Senate Republicans have no intention of supporting it. Key provisions of that bill include expanding automatic voter registration and same-day registration; strengthening voting by mail, early voting and ballot access; combating voter intimidation and suppression; protecting elections from foreign interference; fixing partisan redistricting; and forcing disclosure of “dark money” donations to political groups.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vehemently opposed S. 1 and is likely to try to block the John Lewis bill when it arrives in the Senate. With an evenly divided Senate, all 50 Democrats and at least 10 Republicans would need to vote for the bill, which seems unlikely.