Speaker Paul Ryan met with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on Wednesday and told them that even though he supports a new voting rights bill, he will not actually DO anything to push the legislation towards the house floor if it means bypassing a committee chairman.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), former chairman of the CBC, described the private meeting which took place on Capitol Hill.
He said it right in front of everybody — he said he supports the [Jim] Sensenbrenner bill,” Cleaver said.
The fact that Ryan supports the bill means very little, though, because he refuses to take any real action.
So somebody was saying, ‘Well, why don’t you go tell your committee chair to do it?’ ” Cleaver reported. “And he said, … ‘Look, I can’t do that.’
Ryan, who became speaker last fall after former-Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) resigned, has vowed to return to a bottom-up approach and return the bulk of the power to committees.
Ryan insists that any voting-rights legislation must move through that bottom-up structure, Cleaver said.
He said, ‘I told my own conference I’m not going to do it, so I’m not going to come up here and tell you anything differently. … I want it to be the product of the committee,’ Cleaver explained.
Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a former chairman of the Judiciary panel, sponsored the bipartisan bill that would help restore the protections from a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.)
Just last week, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that the Sensenbrenner-Conyers bill was likely to be passed “if it gets to the floor.” Though he is pushing for Ryan to help make that happen, it seems unlikely at this point.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), current Judiciary chairman, does not support the bill. He maintains that congressional action is unnecessary because the Supreme Court decision left more than enough protections standing.
Ryans refusal to circumvent Goodlatte means it is likely the end of the road for the voting rights legislation this year.
Featured image via Gage Skidmore