Republicans Won’t Say If Voting Rights Act Is Constitutional

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"Republicans Won’t Say If Voting Rights Act Is Constitutional"

As the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of a key provision in the Voting Rights Act, many on both sides of the aisle are speaking out in defense of the law. But just seven years after joining in the Senate’s 98-0 vote to reauthorize the law, two Senate Republicans are refusing to say whether they think the law they voted for passes constitutional muster.

On Tuesday, Talking Points Memo’s Sahil Kapur asked Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) whether they think the Supreme Court should uphold the Voting Rights Act — which both voted to reauthorize in July 2006. Graham reportedly responded, “Uhh.. [long pause] I haven’t even thought about it.” Inhofe, according to Kapur, responded: “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll let someone else answer that.”

There are many reasons why 48 years after its original passage, the Voting Rights Act is still needed. But the case was perhaps best made by Graham himself in a 2006 press release:

South Carolina has come a long way in the past few decades and we have a lot to be proud of. But just like every other part of the country, we still have a ways to go. I hope twenty-five years from now it can be said that there will be no need for a Voting Rights Act because things have continued to change for the better. If we continue making progress like we have in the past twenty-five years, we can make it happen.

All Senators take an oath that they will “support and defend the Constitution.” The 15th Amendment to that Constitution expressly gives Congress the power to ensure that citizens’ “right to vote shall not be denied or abridged” based on race or color. By voting for the 2006 legislation, Graham and Inhofe already put themselves on record as believing this was constitutional.

Update

Kapur notes a wide array of other GOP Senators also refused to say whether the Voting Right Act is constitutional. The list includes 2006 supporters Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), and John McCain (R-AZ).

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