Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the state’s new voting rights bill into law Tuesday, Sept. 7, and it has Joe Biden’s breeches in a bunch, again. That’s twice in as many weeks the Lone Star State has upset the president’s apple cart. And just as was the case with the abortion ban, there’s little Biden can do but bluster.
Biden vs. Reality
“Today, Texas legislators put forth a bill that joins Georgia and Florida in advancing a state law that attacks the sacred right to vote,” Biden said in a statement to The Texas Tribune before the bill even cleared the legislature. “It’s part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year – and often disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans.”
As is the case with most Democrats, Biden seems to think increased election security translates to making voting harder for non-whites. Perhaps the so-called party of the people believes that black Americans are somehow unable to acquire photo ID, fill out a simple voter registration form, or work the internet well enough to find out for themselves where to vote. Yet it’s the GOP that’s racist – go figure.
“Overall this bill is designed to address areas throughout the process where bad actors can take advantage, so Texans can feel confident that their elections are fair, honest and open,” Republican state Senator Bryan Hughes explained when he presented SB 7 to the Texas Senate earlier in the year.
Though those opposing the new law didn’t bother to wait for Abbott to sign it before beginning legal challenges, Texas Republicans believe it will come through the judicial review unscathed. Assuming the courts don’t kill it, there’s only one way to counter the new Texas law: Congress.
Texas v Congress
What’s the Democrats’ answer to Texas’ new voting law? Federal legislation. The For the People Act – the national voting law the left really wanted – died in the Senate, and now all hopes rest on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021. If passed as is, the bill would bring back the requirement for certain states to submit to “preclearance” – essentially, approval by the Department of Justice’s civil rights division – before any change to state voting regulations can take place. The triggers for this requirement are vague enough that it could be applied to any state or locality, so long as someone with the power to enforce it decides one of them is relevant. While this will obviously affect changes in the future, the language of the bill makes it clear it’s retroactive to Jan. 1, 2021, as well. In other words, if passed, the Texas voting law would immediately be invalidated pending review by an increasingly left-wing administration.
But like the Democrats’ national response to the Texas abortion ban, this congressional Hail Mary attempt to circumvent state law stands very little chance of clearing the Senate. Unless Democrats agree to Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) suggested changes – which, according to identical headlines across the left-wing media, would “gut the bill” – it seems unlikely the Democratic Party’s primary roadblock will get out of his colleagues’ way. Even if they acquiesce, they’ll have to either lure ten Republicans to sign on or convince Manchin to change his mind about protecting the filibuster. While he has shown more support for the voting rights act than previous partisan plays, it would be a shock to see him vote to kill the filibuster. Manchin has said he wants only bipartisan legislation to make it to the president’s desk, and that’s hardly a word one could use to describe the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Republicans were united in their opposition to the 2021 version of this bill in the House, and there’s no indication that the same won’t be true in the Senate. In the House, their resistance wasn’t enough to stop it – but the same is not true of the Senate. Once again, barring judicial action, Biden can complain all he wants about the state of Texas, but in the end all he can do is bluster.
Read more from James Fite.