Rep. John Lewis, civil rights hero.
House Republican leadership is still struggling to find a way out of the hole they dug for themselves in last week's Confederate flag debacle
, and Democrats are offering them an out. To recap, in a voice vote early in the week the House voted to ban the display and sale of the flags in National Parks as an amendment to the Interior Department spending bill. Rank-and-file Republicans were outraged when they found out, and to appease them John Boehner's leadership team slipped in another amendment reinstating the flag. As if no one would notice. Boehner ended up pulling the entire bill, and won't put another spending bill on the floor out of fear that Democrats will bring up more amendments related to the flag and embarrass Republicans further. Now Democrats are offering a compromise: the flag for the Voting Rights Act
Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, said Thursday that Democratic leaders will drop their push to attach flag-related amendments to appropriations bills, freeing Republicans to pursue their spending agenda, if GOP leaders will agree to consider an update to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a central part of which was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013.
"I'm here to say to you that the members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the full Democratic Caucus are willing to sit down with the Speaker and work out a way for us to allow the proper display and utilization of ... the flag in certain instances if he would only sit down with us and work out an appropriate addressing of the amendments to the Voting Rights Act," Clyburn said during a press briefing in the Capitol. […]
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) alluded to the Charleston massacre Thursday, suggesting that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders need to do more to address institutional racism than attend funerals in the wake of tragedies.
"There has been an opportunity for the Republican majority not just to send a condolence card or show up at a service but to translate that into action," Pelosi said. "And we are now segueing from the conversation about the flag to a conversation about voting rights now."
In 2013, the Supreme Court threw out the VRA formula for determining which states have to get preclearance from the Justice Department before changing voter registration and elections procedures. The court ruled that the formula used was outdated and therefore unconstitutional and the only way for it to be preserved would be for Congress to update it. With a Republican Congress, that clearly has not been an option. The immediate outcome was for states like North Carolina, Texas, and Alabama to immediately implement voter suppression tactics that had been on hold under VRA review. As civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) said Thursday in announcing this offer to Republicans, "[a]cross the country, there's a deliberate, systematic attempt to make it harder and more difficult for the disabled, students, seniors, minorities, the poor, and rural voters to participate in a democratic process. We must not let that happen."
This is an incredibly smart offer from Pelosi and team, who have Boehner over a barrel. He can save face after this hugely embarrassing moment for himself and his party by taking them up on this offer. Or he can prove that he is dominated by the racists in his conference and incapable of either leading or governing.