The No. 2 House Republican joined the annual Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage this weekend, at a time when the future of the Voting Rights Act is murky and the GOP is looking to make inroads among minority communities.
This was the second time that Majority Leader Eric Cantor joined the trip, led annually by Rep. John Lewis and organized by the nonprofit Faith and Politics Institute. Last year, Cantor became the highest-ranking Republican to ever participate in the 14-year history of the event.
“It has added, certainly, to the knowledge base of the civil-rights movement, and I do think that just going through this experience with colleagues is something that helps break down barriers and will help facilitate problem-solving going forward,” Cantor told National Journal.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton shared her experiences as a law student who had come to Mississippi to help organize the Freedom Summer. Participants on the pilgrimage also marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama, a commemoration of the 49th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Lewis, who served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at the time, was beaten badly during that demonstration. And the horrific images of peaceful marchers being attacked by authorities helped to create the momentum that led to congressional approval of the Voting Rights Act.
Now Congress is considering a rewrite to a section of the Voting Rights Act, after the Supreme Court struck down key portions of the monumental civil-rights legislation. The rewrite, from Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican, and John Conyers, a Democrat, would create a new formula that would revive federal oversight of voting laws for just four states. Before the Supreme Court ruling, all or part of 15 states were covered under the legislation.
This less-rigorous measure has drawn criticism from some lawmakers and civil-rights groups. “We’re walking a narrow line,” Conyers has told National Journal. “If we overreach, we will lose Republican votes. But if we don’t go far enough, we will lose votes on our own side.” Some Republicans have said that another section of the Voting Rights Act, untouched by the Court, provides sufficient protections.
When asked if the House will vote on the measure this year and what his position is on the legislative fix, Cantor noted the criticisms of the amendment and said he has discussed the suggested changes with the NAACP and its counsel as well as with some Democrats.
“We’re working on it,” Cantor said. “Again, I would like to be able to address the concerns that are out there so that we can move forward.”
Cantor’s participation in the pilgrimage comes also after the GOP received some criticism in 2013 when no elected Republicans participated in the March on Washington anniversary event on the Mall, due to a series of scheduling conflicts, health problems, and late invitations.
But this pilgrimage is more low-key, an annual event that typically draws mostly local and regional press. Cantor appears to have made a habit of going on the trip; he attended last year, and this year he was joined two House Republicans from Mississippi, Gregg Harper and Alan Nunnelee. Cantor said he would like more Republicans to participate in the future.
“It’s really important, because Republicans are about people, and we want results to try and improve the opportunity for everybody in this country,” he said while on the trip. “And if we could get the debate in Washington centered around helping people and then let the debate be about what is the best way to do that — I’m hopeful that being here, we can facilitate that kind of dialogue between the two sides, so that perhaps we can be successful in tearing down some of the preconceived notions that are built up for a variety of reasons.”
What We're Following See More »
"Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right politician Marine Le Pen led the first round of voting in France’s presidential election, according to early projections, as voters redrew the political map, placing the European Union at the center of a new political divide. Projections by the Kantar-Sofres polling firm showed Mr. Macron on track to win the first round with about 24% of the vote, ahead of Ms. Le Pen with nearly 22%." The vote marks the end of the country's dominance by conservative and socialist parties. The top vote-getters head to a runoff on May 7.
President Trump will deliver the keynote address for at the National Holocaust Museum's National Day of Remembrance ceremony on Tuesday. He'll speak from the Capitol Rotunda. The move is likely an effort to try to mend fences with Jewish groups. In January, "the White House ignited controversy when it didn't mention Jews or anti-Semitism in a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day." And certain members of his inner circle are still suspected of harboring white supremacist or anti-Semitic views."
"President Trump and his top aides applied new pressure Sunday on lawmakers to include money for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border in a must-pass government funding bill, raising the possibility of a federal government shutdown this week. In a pair of tweets, Trump attacked Democrats for opposing the wall and insisted that Mexico would pay for it “at a later date,” despite his repeated campaign promises not including that qualifier. And top administration officials appeared on Sunday morning news shows to press for wall funding, including White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, who said Trump might refuse to sign a spending bill that does not include any."
A Russian government think tank run by Putin loyalists "developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system." Two confidential documents from the Putin-backed Institute for Strategic Studies, obtained by U.S. intelligence, provide "the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election."
"The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign as part of the justification" to monitor Carter Page, who was then a defense adviser to the Trump campaign. "The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks."