The U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday passed legislation to restore federal oversight of state election laws under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Having established themselves at the forefront of the national fight over access to the ballot box, Texas Democrats praised its passage.
Named after Representative John Lewis of Georgia, the legislation would revive the power of the Justice Department to bar some discriminatory election changes from taking effect and ease the path to challenge others in court. It would require states with a history of discrimination to get federal approval to make changes to voting laws — a reversal of two Supreme Court rulings that struck down a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act.
Prior to the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly acknowledged the contribution of Texas Democrats who she hailed as “fighting the fight for voting rights.”
“I’m honored that we have visitors — legislators from the state of Texas who are fighting the fight for voting rights for people in their state and country,” Pelosi said. “Let us hear applause for those Texans.”
Texas Democrats later celebrated the legislation and drew attention to their role in the national fight over voting rights.
“Texas Democrats have held the line for voting rights for our entire country for the last seven months,” wrote Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa in a statement. “This victory is for all of us. And it did not happen by accident. Along with the For the People Act, this legislation had stalled in Congress — up until July 12, when a delegation of Texas Democratic lawmakers took our fight to D.C. and began rallying leaders across our entire country in the fight to protect the right to vote.”
Though Democrat lawmakers stressed the bipartisan history of the bill, Democrats voted along party lines to adopt the bill 219 to 212 in the rare August session. Republican opposition awaits in the Senate, where a likely filibuster threatens to sink it before it can reach President Biden’s desk.
Former U.S. Representative and long-time voter rights advocate Beto O’Rourke took to Twitter to praise the legislation, but warned that in the absence of filibuster reform it would fail to protect voters.
“This is an important step forward, but not enough to save our democracy until this bill and the For the People Act become law,” O’Rourke tweeted. “The President must push to reform the filibuster so that the Senate can pass both bills.”