On Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Carl Cameron stated that the House of Representatives had approved a Voting Rights Act extension "overwhelmingly." However, Cameron failed to note that a majority of House Republicans had supported four amendments to the bill that would have weakened the legislation or possibly prevented its passage.
On the July 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron, reporting on Senate's passage of an extension of the Voting Rights Act, stated that the House of Representatives had "approved" a Voting Rights Act extension "overwhelmingly last week." However, Cameron failed to note that the House Republican leadership joined almost all Democrats to fight back four amendments to the bill, three of which had the support of a majority of House Republicans. As Washington Post staff writer Shailagh Murray noted in a July 14 report on House passage of the extension, the amendments would have "diluted two expiring provisions and possibly derailed final passage before the November congressional elections." The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed in an effort to ensure the voting rights of minority Americans; portions that are set to expire in 2007 will be extended for an additional 25 years if the president signs the bill.
Reporting on George W. Bush's first speech as president before the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Cameron stated that the "GOP-controlled Senate moved quickly toward what became unanimous approval" for extending the act, and then stated that the House had also approved it "overwhelmingly."
However, as Murray reported, the House passed the extension "after GOP leaders quelled a rebellion within the party's Southern ranks that threatened to become a political embarrassment," adding that House Democrats were crucial in defeating three of the four Republican amendments that threatened the extension.
One of the amendments, introduced by Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA), would have applied provisions of the act to all states, rather than only the states to which they originally applied, most of which were Southern. That amendment was defeated 318-96 by Democrats and a large number of Republicans. A separate amendment, introduced by Rep. Lynn A. Westmoreland (R-GA), would have allowed states to ask the Department of Justice to lift certain provisions of the act that applied to districting plans. It was defeated 302-118. Another amendment, introduced by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), would have shortened the extension from 25 years to 10 years and was defeated 288-134. Another, introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), would have allowed a provision requiring certain localities to print non-English ballots to expire in 2007. It was defeated 238-185. A majority of House Republicans supported all but the Norwood amendment, and the amendment on non-English ballots received the support of 181 Republicans and four Democrats but failed due to the opposition of 193 Democrats, 1 independent, and 44 Republicans. House Judiciary Committee chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI), who introduced the extension bill in the House, characterized King's amendment as a "poison pill" amendment, as the Post noted.
From the July 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
CAMERON: It was the president's first speech to the group since before he took office, and comes less than four months before the fall elections as Republicans try to improve their standing with minority voters. As he spoke, the GOP-controlled Senate moved quickly toward what became unanimous approval of a 25-year extension of expiring provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, aimed at halting racist voting practices. The House approved it overwhelmingly last week.
BUSH [video clip]: I look forward to the Senate passing this bill, promptly, without amendment, so I can sign it into law.
From the July 14 edition of The Washington Post:
The House yesterday easily approved an extension of key provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act, after GOP leaders quelled a rebellion within the party's Southern ranks that threatened to become a political embarrassment.
Before the 390 to 33 vote to extend the measure for a quarter-century, the House defeated four amendments that would have diluted two expiring provisions and possibly derailed final passage before the November congressional elections. With the House hurdle now cleared, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said he hoped to bring the extension to the Senate floor before the August recess.
The act's temporary provisions do not expire until next year, but Republican leaders had hoped that early action would earn goodwill from minority voters as members of Congress head into a brutally competitive fall campaign season.
"Today, Republicans and Democrats have united in a historic vote to preserve and protect one of America's most important fundamental rights -- the right to vote," said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
Yesterday's votes put a dent in Hastert's principle of moving major legislation only with a "majority of the majority" -- that is, with most of the chamber's 231 Republicans supporting it. Overwhelming Democratic support was crucial to defeating three of the potentially killer amendments introduced by dissident Republicans and opposed by Hastert.
But several key provisions are temporary. One requires certain states and jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination to gain federal approval for voting-law changes. Another imposes a language-assistance requirement on jurisdictions with a high percentage of voters whose native language is not English.
It is those two provisions that drew the ire of some Republican lawmakers, mainly from the South. Some of these Republicans had objected to approving the provisions and, in recent weeks, had blocked the bill from going to the floor. To move it forward, GOP leaders allowed the four amendments to be considered. Most of the disgruntled Republicans swallowed their complaints and voted for final passage.
One of the 33 holdouts was Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.). "Some politicians in Washington wouldn't dare vote against this bill because they'd be lambasted by the media and liberal interest groups," McHenry said. "I will not go along with bad public policy in the name of political correctness. ... This bill is a 1960s solution for a 21st-century world."
Republicans also sought to strip the act of a provision that requires jurisdictions to print ballots in a second language if the local population includes a large enough percentage of Latinos, American Indians, Asian Americans and Native Alaskans -- groups that Congress found to have faced barriers in the political process.
The bilingual amendment, offered by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), had a particular potency, given the simmering debate over overhauling the nation's immigration laws. King and his supporters called the bilingual-ballot requirement an affront to states' rights and "a horrible attack on the unity of the United States of America." Said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.): "This is multiculturalism at its worst."
Powerful Republicans, such as House Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), helped block the amendment, which failed 238 to 185. A significant GOP majority -- 181 to 44 -- supported the amendment. "This is a poison-pill amendment," Sensenbrenner said. He added: "We're dealing here with United States citizens. Certainly we ought to give these people assistance."
A fourth amendment, offered by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), would have shortened the extension to 10 years from 25 years; it failed 288 to 134.