Congress Neguse Perlmutter Rules Committee

From left, Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., confer after a brief meeting of the House Rules Committee, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. 

U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse helped lead House Democrats Tuesday ahead of a party-line vote to pass legislation aimed at restoring provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Lafayette Democrat, a member of the powerful House Rules Committee, managed the floor debate over a procedural rule that set up passage of the bill, dubbed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancements Act, named after the long-serving Georgia congressman who died last year.

The bill, approved on a 219-212 vote, would restore the ability of the U.S. Justice Department to prevent changes to voting rules in places with a history of discrimination and allow minority residents to challenge state laws they consider discriminatory — reversing the effects of two recent Supreme Court decisions.

Republicans argued the legislation amounts to a federal takeover of states' constitutional right to run elections.

The bill faces an uncertain fate in the evenly divided Senate, where Democrats could struggle to come up with 50 votes and almost certainly can't reach the 60 votes required to bypass a GOP filibuster.

"Voting is a sacred right, foundational to our democracy and our republic," said Neguse. "It is a right that many have fought and died to secure and that the late civil rights hero, our dear friend and colleague John Lewis, fought to protect, despite being harassed, jailed and beaten.

"Madame Speaker, as you know Mr. Lewis often told us that the vote is the most powerful non-violent tool that we have. Unfortunately, it is a right, it is once again under attack, and we see it in the laws that are being passed in Georgia and Florida and in Iowa, in state after state after state. In declaring the absence of federal standards and enforcement, partisan legislatures are making it harder for those that are legally eligible to vote to do so."

Neguse noted that abroad, bipartisan congressional majorities have voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in past decades.

Among the Republicans opposing the bill, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck of Windsor — a regular Neguse ally on other, less clearly partisan legislationrailed against the Democrats' proposal as an "unconstitutional power grab."

Referring to a procedure the bill would re-establish after the Supreme Court struck it down in a 2013 decision — a mandatory federal review to determine if changes to voting rules complied with the law, known as "pre-clearance" — Buck mocked the notion.

"Pre-clearance from an administration that has screwed up Afghanistan, screwed up the border, screwed up inflation, and we’re supposed to go to them and ask them for permission because voter ID is such a burden," Buck said.

On Twitter, Buck summarized his case: "H.R. 4 is not about voting rights. It is about giving Democrats total control over states’ elections, which the constitution gives to state legislatures."

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat who also sits on the Rules Committee, pointed to more than a dozen Republican-controlled states that have enacted laws this year that Democrats charge restrict access to the polls, in part in response to unfounded claims by former President Donald Trump and his allies that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

“Safe and accessible elections for all Americans – and thus our democracy – is in jeopardy," Perlmutter said in a statement. "Any law that makes it harder to cast a ballot or denies an American their freedom to vote has no place in our country. We must restore the Voting Rights Act and ensure national voting standards are in place to preserve and protect every Americans’ right to vote."

Following the bill's House passage Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, a Centennial Democrat, invoked Trump's false claims to make a similar point.

“The right to vote has been sacred to our country since our founding. But since the Big Lie, states across the country have tried to enact restrictive, anti-voter laws. It's never been more urgent than it is today to protect the right to vote,” Crow said in a statement.

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