Thomas Roberts   |  July 18, 2013

Headline- Congress turns its attention to the Voting Rights Act

Another congressional hearing on the Voting Rights Act is scheduled for Thursday, this time in the House of Representatives. MSNBC’s Ari Melber and Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., discuss the plans to address voting rights circulating Capitol Hill.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the vote rights this time in the house. yesterday for the first time since the supreme court struck down a key part of that law the senate judiciary committee took up the issue. it was a bipartisan show of support as senators heard testimony from congressman john lewis a veteran of the civil rights movement and republican congressman jim sensenbrenner .

>> vote is precious. almost sacred. it is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have. it is my belief that the voting rights is needed our than ever before.

>> i believe that the vote rights is the most successful of all of our important civil rights that have been passed since the mid- 1950s , and actually eliminating discrimination. we cannot afford to lose it now and it is our obligation as senators and representatives to continue it.

>> joining me now live is alabama congresswoman terri so well chief deputy whip of the democratic cause cause and a native of selma, alabama . ariis covering this from capitol hill today. thank you both for being here. congresswoman i want to start with you. i want to play another part of what congressman sensenbrenner who is a republican said yesterday.

>> discrimination in the electoral process continues to exist and threatens to undermine the progress that has been made over the last 50 years. i am committed to working to pass a constitutional response to the shelby versus holder decision i look forward to work with anybody who wants to approach this effort in good faith.

>> so republican house starting conversations there. representative, are these efforts in the house real?

>> i think so. look, i think that congress in 2006 reauthorized it with more than 12,000 pages of testimony and evidence. and i think that representative sensenbrenner and representative lewis represent the best intentions of the house of representatives in a bipartisan way to come up with another coverage formula that's narrowly tailored so it passes constitutional muster.

>> ari, i'm reading from your article that you posted on our website you noted that hearings are being led in the judiciary committee on the constitution headed by trent franks there. one of only 33 republicans who voted against reauthorizing the vote rights in 2006 and you had noted 390 members voted for it there. so does this already spell doom?

>> i don't think it spells doom. i think he's a minority of a minority of the members of congress who did pose this as the last time. as the congresswoman pointed out this has strong bipartisan support. i spoke last night to the democratic ranking member on that same committee and he said basically look with all due respect to congressman franks this is above his pay grade . this is a big question for the republican party for people like john boehner and eric cantor and today's hearings are just a start of a debate that while it has split the republican party to some degree there have been some reasonable republicans left in the building.

>> the concern the supreme court had is with that 1965 law. based on old data. it as simple as updating the data then?

>> it's a great question. look there's one way to do it very directly to john roberts concern which is to update from the literacy test . you can use data from section 2 and take a different approach looking at where discrimination is happening now include more of the north. last thing i'll say very important here is 14th and 15th amendment did answer this question. they said it's more important to treat people equally than the states equally.

>> five states ongoing moving forward with restrictive voter i.d. laws including mississippi, texas, alabama , south carolina and virginia as well. these states are republican led. what's your thought here? is it realistic to think they will even consider work with democrats on this issue?

>> yes. i think hope springs eternal . you know, i'm a native of selma as you rightfully said and a member that represents the civil rights district and i can tell you while progress has been made in electoral politics we have a long ways to go. i think that as long as there's discriminatory impact that affect all americans the ability to vote we as elected officials should do in our power that we come up with a valid coverage formula.

>> thank you very much. a reminder to watch ari today and every weekday on "the cycle." in minutes we're expecting