Friday, June 30, 2006

Republicans slow Voting Rights Act renewal

Republicans slow Voting Rights Act renewal
By Amanda Beck

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Prospects for a swift renewal of the Voting Rights Act faded on Thursday as lawmakers called for new congressional hearings on the landmark civil rights law first approved in 1965.

The House leadership had expected an easy 25-year extension of the act last week but southern Republicans rebelled, objecting that their states would be subjected to special scrutiny based on the legacy of discrimination from the 1960s.

The Voting Rights Act is designed to end discrimination at the polls and has been renewed four times. If Congress does not act again, parts of it will expire in 2007.

Lawmakers are divided on several issues, including whether districts should supply bilingual voting ballots and whether hearings should examine the impact of this week's Supreme Court ruling on Texas redistricting.

House Majority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said Congress would return to the matter after a weeklong July 4 recess. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said party members were "holding our fire and patiently waiting for the Republicans to work out their politics."

The Senate has not yet taken up the bill.