As they entered and exited weekly party luncheons Tuesday afternoon, I and other reporters asked many GOP senators if they consider a centerpiece of the law, which was battered by conservative justices during Supreme Court oral arguments last week, should be upheld. Every one of them dodged the questions, some more artfully than others.
“Uh,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), before a long, awkward pause, “I haven’t even thought about it.” He laughed and said, “I’ll leave that to the courts. I’m having a hard enough time being a senator, much less a Supreme Court justice.”
I asked the same question to Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who, like Graham, voted to renew the law in 2006. “The Voting Rights Act?” he asked. Yes, I said. Should it be upheld? “Oh, I don’t know,” Inhofe replied. “I’ll let someone else answer that.”
Inhofe held a press conference during oral arguments on Obamacare, trying to lobby the Court. He also joined a brief stating that the law was unconstitutional.
“I haven’t — I’m worried about other things,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), nodding his head as he entered an elevator.
Here’s McCain opining on the health care law during one of his thousands of television appearances:
And I believe that it violates the commerce clause of the constitution of the United States. And I cannot believe that in any way you could view it as being constitutional.
I asked Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who was exiting a conference meeting and walking into the same senators-only elevator, if the law should be upheld. “Uh, I’m not…” he said. As the elevator door closed, he shrugged his shoulders.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), a former leadership member who also voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in 2006, similarly declined to answer.
“No, I am not going to try to be a Supreme Court [justice] and senator at the same time,” he told reporters. Is it constitutional? “That’s the question before the Supreme Court.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the vice chairman of the GOP conference, also wouldn’t answer.
“I think you asked me that already,” he said. I told him I had not. “Oh. I’m not following that court case. I’m interested in the topic. I used to be the chief election official for our state, but we weren’t under the Voting Rights Act and I haven’t been following the case.”
“Twenty-six states have challenged this law and a number of federal judges have already deemed the individual mandate unconstitutional. I hope the Supreme Court will come to the same conclusion.”
This guy hasn’t seen it or even thought about it. He knows NOTHING about any “voting rights act”
Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) said he hasn’t looked at or thought about the case.
“Somebody asked me about that earlier, and to be honest, I just haven’t looked at kinda what’s going on there,” he said. “Well again, like I said, I haven’t thought about it or looked at it.” Blunt and Boozman were members of the House in 2006 and voted for reauthorization.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) declined to provide a straight answer, but she got closer to addressing the substance than other GOP senators, saying laws should be reviewed “as times change” — a central argument that opponents of Section 5 advanced in court.
Harry Reid wrote this in 2006, after conservatives voted to re-authorize the Act, and former President Bush held a signing ceremony surrounded by civil rights leaders:
REPUBLICANS HOPE TO USE COURTS TO KILL VITAL LEGISLATION
Reid was right, of course.
I think it’s fascinating how the conservative position on voting rights is a political liability for elected, national Republicans. It’s delicious to think about how Justice Scalia’s attempts to protect Senators from accountability for their beliefs could backfire, politically.