House GOPer defends need for Voting Rights Act

"If it's struck down and fixable, Congress has the obligation to fix it," said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner

Published March 11, 2013 4:38PM (EDT)

 Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc.            (Facebook/RepSensenbrenner)
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc. (Facebook/RepSensenbrenner)

One House Republican is staunchly defending the need for Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which is currently in danger of being struck down by the Supreme Court. "Republicans have always had a track record of supporting civil rights legislation," Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., told Amanda Terkel of the Huffington Post. "If you look back in the '50s and '60s, it was Republican support that overcame Southern Democrat opposition."

In 2006, Congress voted to reauthorize the VRA by bipartisan votes of 98-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the House. But the Supreme Court is currently considering a challenge to Section 5 of the VRA, which forces certain states and counties with a history of racial discrimination to get pre-clearance from the Department of Justice before changing their voting laws.

Most Senate Republicans have been evasive about whether they think Section 5 should be upheld, with some even hinting that they would be open to getting rid of it. House Speaker John Boehner, who voted to reauthorize the VRA in 2006, was also recently cagey about it. "I think the Voting Rights Act has passed with large majorities in the House and Senate," he said. "I think it's something that has served our country well. But there is argument over a very small section of the Voting Rights Act, and that's what the court is going to consider."

When asked about Boehner's comments, Sensenbrenner disagreed with the characterization of Section 5 as "small": "It's an important part of the Voting Rights Act. If it's struck down and fixable, Congress has the obligation to fix it."

By Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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House Republicans Jim Sensenbrenner Supreme Court Voter Suppression Voting Rights Act