GOP happy to celebrate Selma — as long as they don’t have to support its modern message
Although many Republican lawmakers traveled to Selma, Alabama this weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic marches that led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, not a single GOP senator is supporting the bill that would restore the voting rights stripped from the act by the Supreme Court in 2013.
When the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, it allowed states and municipalities that had a history of discriminating against groups of voters to police themselves. This has allowed Republicans in states that previously needed federal approval to change voting laws to introduce restrictive voter ID and registration bills in state legislatures.
The bill sponsored by Delaware Democratic Senator Chris Coons would have created a requirement that states and municipalities that have been suspected of voting violations in the past 15 years to submit to federal oversight, but it went nowhere — because not a single Senate Republican would support it.
In an interview from Alabama, Coons told the Huffington Post that “it is a source of great frustration for me that, despite trying and trying in the last Congress, we were not able to persuade a single Republican to join us in cosponsoring Voting Rights Act legislation.”
“Hopefully,” he continued, “I will have some respectful and focused conversations this weekend,” Coons said. “I can try to persuade some of my colleagues that it’s long past time to take bipartisan action to address the Voting Rights Act.”
However, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott (R) — a cosponsor of the weekend’s events in Selma — suggested that the commemoration should be “de-coupled” from current efforts to stop voter ID and registration legislation.
“The issue of voting rights legislation and the issue of Selma, we ought to have an experience that brings people together and not make it into a political conversation,” he told McClatchyDC.
When ThinkProgress’s Alice Ollstein asked Republican senators about the bill during the Selma ceremonies on Saturday, not only did they not support it, some claimed not to even know of its existence. Ohio Republican Rob Portman said, “I haven’t looked at it. Is there a Senate version?”
Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R) knew of it, but claimed that he hadn’t “studied it sufficiently to comment on it.”
Watch a recently rediscovered documentary about the Selma marches below via YouTube.