House Republicans stall Voting Rights Act renewal

After the 2004 elections, the Republican Party talked a lot about their plans to make "inroads" into new constituencies, the two big ones being African-American and Latino voters.

But then came Katrina, immigrant-bashing, and now the latest maneuver that will make appeals to anyone of a different hue from the GOP base difficult:

House Republican leaders on Wednesday postponed a vote on renewing the 1965 Voting Rights Act after GOP lawmakers complained it unfairly singles out nine Southern states for federal oversight.

The Voting Rights Act, one of the landmark pieces of legislation in our nation's history, was passed in 1965 and is up for renewal next year. Indeed, the only reason a bi-partisan group of legislators decided to move on renewal a year before the deadline is because it was assumed the bill would sail through. Not so:

The four-decade-old law enfranchised millions of black voters by ending poll taxes and literacy tests during the height of the civil rights struggle. A vote on renewing it for another 25 years had been scheduled for Wednesday, with both Republican and Democratic leaders behind it.

The dramatic shift came after a private caucus meeting earlier Wednesday in which several Republicans also balked at extending provisions in the law that require ballots to be printed in more than one language in neighborhoods where there are large numbers of immigrants, said several participants.

This might play well in the short-term for Republicans seeking to pander to their base in upcoming elections, but it's hard to see it as anything other than long-term suicide the party. Piling up votes like these will make it very difficult to make inroads into those groups that are increasingly becoming the majority across the U.S.

The irony is that much of the Voting Rights Act has been defanged by the Department of Justice's recent policy of shutting out career attorneys and rubbing-stamping "pre-clearance" of Republican proposals, such as redistricting that benefited the GOP in Georgia and Texas (which career staff saw as blatantly illegal).