WASHINGTON — Atlanta Democratic Rep. John Lewis crossed the Capitol on Wednesday to demand urgency from the U.S. Senate in restoring a key section of the Voting Rights Act.
But the hearing was light on specific legislative action to come, and disagreement remains as to whether the law’s pre-clearance section is still necessary.
Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was the first formal attempt of Congress to wade into the void created by the U.S. Supreme Court last month, when it tossed out the formula that required certain jurisdictions with a history of discrimination – including Georgia – to pre-submit all voting laws to the federal government. The court said Congress could create a new formula that reflects present-day discrimination rather than 1965 conditions.
“It is the duty of Congress to restore the life and soul to the Voting Rights Act,” Lewis said. “And we must do it on our watch, at this time.”
Lewis buttressed his comments with his own history in the civil rights movement and he was treated with reverence by the senators. Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he had shown a graphic novel about Lewis’ life to all five of his grandchildren.