Mitch McConnell Comes Out Against 'Unnecessary' John Lewis Voting Rights Act

Republican leader Mitch McConnell voiced opposition to the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act on Tuesday, calling it "unnecessary."

"There's no threat to the voting rights law. It's against the law to discriminate in voting on the basis of race already, and so I think it's unnecessary," McConnell said during a press conference.

The Senate minority leader also argued that the bill would give the Justice Department too much power over the states when it comes to determining voting and election systems.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named for the late civil rights leader and House member, has been proposed as an alternative to the For the People Act (H.R. 1)—a sweeping, 800-page bill that would overhaul the election process.

The alternative proposal has gained support from Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Lisa Murkowski, two critical votes in the 50-50 split Senate, but McConnell's opposition makes it likely that other conservatives will come out against the bill.

The John Lewis bill (H.R. 4) aims to restore provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were struck down in 2013 by the Supreme Court.

The bill would create a pathway for citizens or the federal government to challenge new state voting laws in the courts and requires many changes to election procedures to go through a process called "preclearance," or approval from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

McConnell Comes Out Against John Lewis VRA
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters following the weekly Republican policy luncheon on May 25. On Tuesday, he voiced his opposition to the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Kevin Dietsch

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday urged Senate Democrats to pass both voting rights bills but noted that the John Lewis act was no substitute for H.R. 1.

"When we pass H.R. 4, we must do so in a way that is ironclad constitutionally. This is what Congressman Butterfield and the House Judiciary Committee are hard at work now. H.R. 4 must be passed, but it will not be ready until the fall, and it is not a substitute for H.R. 1," Pelosi wrote to her colleagues.

She added, "Our mission is to amplify the voices of the grassroots, as they vote, advocate for policy and choose to run for office. H.R. 1/S. 1 must become law in order to respect the sanctity of the vote, which is the basis of our democracy."

But both bills face an uphill climb in the Senate, where Democrats need 10 Republicans to back the measures in order to break a filibuster.

Democrats are already down one caucus member after Manchin announced Sunday that he would vote against the For the People Act.

"I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster," the West Virginia Democrat wrote in an op-ed for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Correction (6/9/2021, 9:10 a.m. ET): This article was updated to correct that Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, not Susan Collins, has joined Democrat Joe Manchin in backing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.