Wednesday, June 21, 2006

House Republicans Block Voting Rights Extension

CNN reports

Republican leaders on Wednesday postponed a vote on renewing the 1965 Voting Rights Act after GOP lawmakers complained it unfairly singles out nine Southern states for federal oversight.

"We have time to address their concerns," Republican leaders said in a joint statement. "Therefore, the House Republican Leadership will offer members the time needed to evaluate the legislation."

It was unclear whether the legislation would come up this year. The temporary provisions don't expire until 2007, but leaders of both parties had hoped to pass the act and use it to further their prospects in the fall's midterm elections.

The statement said the GOP leaders are committed to renewing the law "as soon as possible."

The four-decade-old law enfranchised millions of black voters by ending poll taxes and literacy tests during the height of the civil rights struggle. A vote on renewing it for another 25 years had been scheduled for Wednesday, with both Republican and Democratic leaders behind it.

The dramatic shift came after a private caucus meeting earlier Wednesday in which several Republicans also balked at extending provisions in the law that require ballots to be printed in more than one language in neighborhoods where there are large numbers of immigrants, said several participants.

A majority of the majority' required

"The speaker's had a standing rule that nothing would be voted on unless there's a majority of the majority," said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Georgia, who led the objections. "It was pretty clear at the meeting that the majority of the majority wasn't there."

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