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By: Dr. Lisa Arkin in The Cap Times

On the first day of medical school, I took a sacred oath to “first, do no harm.” Above all, our role as physicians is to relieve suffering, carefully assessing in every treatment decision the delicate balance between risks and benefits. This requires clinical experience and medical knowledge of disease pathophysiology. But it is the available evidence that is paramount in our clinical decision-making as physicians. Clinical trials are created explicitly to evaluate the safety and efficacy of treatments before they are made available to patients. They provide the highest quality evidence to enable physicians to carefully weigh their risks and benefits in any clinical scenario.

However, an insurer practice called step therapy has been restraining physicians from carrying out their role by restricting treatment options for patients. Step therapy is when an insurance company forces patients to try and "fail" alternative medications decided by the insurer before covering the cost of the prescription that their physician has prescribed. This typically requires patients to fail less expensive medications first. In some cases, step therapy flies in the face of the available medical evidence, potentially endangering patients, frustrating physicians and other health care providers, and in the long run incurring greater costs for the health care system.

Thankfully, this year the Wisconsin Legislature passed, and Gov. Tony Evers signed Senate Bill 26 to reform step therapy in Wisconsin. The bill took effect on Nov. 1. I applaud the work of the bill sponsors, Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep, John Nygren, and all of the many advocates who came together to get this passed.

But it’s not enough. In order to protect all Wisconsin patients, we must pass step therapy reform on the federal level as well.

The "Safe Step Act" (S.2546/H.R. 2279) would offer common-sense protections to ensure patients have timely access to the medications prescribed to them by their health care providers by putting guardrails around the practice, and would provide patients the same protections that have been enacted in more than two dozen states across the country including Wisconsin. We need both state and federal legislation in order to cover plans that are regulated by varying state and federal agencies.

I am grateful to U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan, James Sensenbrenner and Ron Kind for cosponsoring the "Safe Step Act," and I urge the rest of the Wisconsin congressional delegation to likewise support this needed protection.

The practice of pediatric dermatology can be complicated and diverse. Although many of my patients have similar skin conditions, the severity of their disease varies widely. Severe cases are rarely just “skin limited,” and are often accompanied by other medical problems. Symptoms of itch and pain can be debilitating. The stigma of having a highly visible chronic skin disease can be significant. Based on the literature — factoring in the patient's age and other complicated medical conditions, I determine a course of care based on the highest quality evidence available for this specific population.

But without reform, step therapy means that some of my patients are denied the medications that are safest and most effective, in favor of a less expensive, often riskier drug. Only after failure — which can mean different things for different patients depending on the insurance plan — are they granted access to the medication I originally prescribed. In the most severe cases, this only delays care and increases costs to the system, since these patients are likely to get there anyway.

I believe it’s the responsibility of all of us in health care to be economic stewards in the system. Whenever possible, I prescribe the most cost-effective medication when it is also safe and likely to be effective. But not all patients are square pegs that fit into square holes. For the most unique and severely affected patients, the “round pegs” so to speak, the available evidence, combined with my own clinical experience, should outweigh the insurer’s desire to cut costs.

I’m thrilled that lawmakers from all sides, along with patients, providers and insurers, worked together to achieve step therapy reform in Wisconsin.

I am hopeful that the Wisconsin congressional delegation will continue to put patients first by supporting step therapy reform on the federal level. In spite of the gains in Wisconsin, it’s clear that federal step therapy reform is a critical next step to protect our sickest, most vulnerable patients.

Dr. Lisa Arkin is a pediatric dermatologist in Madison.

By: Ben Fox Rubin of CNET

House lawmakers on Wednesday called for two top antitrust regulators to take more action against major tech companies, saying several of these companies have avoided serious scrutiny for years as they swallowed up competitors and consolidated power. They made the request during a hearing for the House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, which has been holding a series of hearings dubbed Online Platforms and Market Power.

"Despite mounting evidence of illegal monopolization activity by some of the dominant platforms and numerous cases brought by international enforcers, US enforcers appear to be paralyzed," Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler said in an opening statement. "It has been decades -- decades -- since the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission has brought a significant monopolization case in the tech sector."

Wednesday's hearing included just two witnesses: FTC Chairman Joseph Simons and Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Antitrust Division. The tone was largely collegial, with the subcommittee's antitrust efforts becoming a rare case of bipartisan work in a polarized Capitol. There were also few people in the audience, perhaps owing to the hearing being overshadowed by the highly anticipated House impeachment public hearings kicking off the same day.

Delrahim and Simons attended a similar hearing in September held by the Senate Judiciary Committee, pointing to just how much attention tech antitrust concerns have grown in Washington DC.

The hearing came as regulators and lawmakers have been shining a harsher light on many of the biggest US tech companies -- Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple -- and their potential monopolies. So far, Facebook has publicly disclosed investigations into the social giant by both the Justice Department and the FTC, and Google disclosed a Justice Department investigation.

Added to that, the House Judiciary Committee and a group of state attorneys general are investigating these tech titans, too.

This work could have huge implications for the future of tech, potentially resulting in the breakup of dominant players like Facebook, the prevention of future tech mergers, or the creation of additional regulatory restrictions on tech giants. Regulators and lawmakers say they are pursuing this work to ensure customers can benefit from the growth of innovative new startups and healthy competition.

For their part, many major tech companies say they remain small players in their fields, such as Amazon being a fraction of global retail, and point to long lists of competitors in their markets.

While several committee members on Wednesday called for more regulatory action, Simons, from the FTC, warned that his agency lacked the authority to pursue more privacy-related enforcement. He said Congress would first need to enact privacy-focused laws, similar to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation or the California Consumer Privacy Act.

"If you want us to do more on the privacy front, then we need more tools from you," he said.

Additionally, Republicans Jim Sensenbrenner and Doug Collins on Wednesday both warned of unintended consequences of new regulations and government overreach that could stifle innovation. For instance, Simons mentioned how Europe's GDPR may have ended up reinforcing market leaders there and suppressing new competitors.

"Proposals to break up big companies just because they are big risks throwing out the baby with the bathwater and are simply punishing success," Collins said.

By John Eggerton of Multichannel News

The House Judiciary Committee Antitrust Subcommittee heard from two major players in the government's review of Big Tech and whether the antitrust laws have kept up with their exponential growth, but not before the legislators had staked out their own positions. 

The toughest rhetoric came from Democrats decrying consolidation and what they said was lax enforcement. 

Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-R.I.) pulled no punches, he said the extreme concentration of online platforms may have some benefits, but they were clearly using their power to set market terms that enrich themselves and make it impossible to compete. 

He said the power they wield is in some measures unprecedented, while government regulators have been paralyzed.  

Full committee chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) echoed that criticism. He said they were at a critical moment when a handful of dominant companies control "commerce, content, and communications." He got specific, pointing out that Google had over 90% of search, Facebook over 80% of social media revenues, and Amazon over half of online commerce. 

He said that anticompetitive consolidation has had devastating effects on a free and diverse press as well as the survival of startups. Both talked of lax merger enforcement in the U.S. vs. more muscular oversight overseas. 

Ranking member Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) was concerned but less harsh in his assessment, a view echoed by other Republicans. He said that it was important not to overreach or punish success or suppress innovation or limit consumer power. 

Witnesses for the hearing were Department of Justice antitrust chief Makan Delrahim and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons in the latest hearing Wednesday (Nov. 13) in a series of hearings, Online Platforms and Market Power, Part 4: Perspectives of the Antitrust Agencies. 

Delrahim and Simons both talked about their ongoing, separate, investigations into Big Tech and antitrust, but both talked about the actions they had already taken in the digital space, and would take future action if their investigation warrants. 

On the issue of enforcement, Simons conceded that the FTC was resource-restrained so it focused on cases it had a better likelihood of winning, adding that if it had more money, it could pursue more cases. 

Simons was asked about Europe's opt-in consent regime and whether the U.S. should take a similar approach to federal privacy legislation. He said he was concerned that could backfire, entrenching the largest players even more at the expense of newer entrants because with consumers faced with a barrage of opt-in decisions on data use, the larger, more familiar, players are the ones most likely to get that consent in part because users may not want to spread their information so widely. 

Sensenbrenner agreed that the U.S. needed to beware the unintended consequences of efforts at protecting privacy or passing federal legislation.

By: CBS News

The first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry that begin Wednesday mark the fourth time in history that Congress has considered removing a president from office. The last time was 1998 when the House of Representatives impeached President Bill Clinton.

Clinton lied under oath about his affair with a White House intern, triggering an impeachment inquiry in the Republican-led House.

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," Clinton said on Jan. 26, 1998.

Then, like now, the parties were split over whether the president's actions represented what the Constitution refers to as "high crimes and misdemeanors." Just like today, the minority argued the opposing party had been looking for a way to take down the president for years.

"He lied about sex, not an admirable thing, but really not an activity that shook the foundations of the Constitution and the democracy," Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said.

"The president of the United States should be held to the highest standard of anybody in the country," Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said.

Both lawmakers sit on the House Judiciary Committee, which handles impeachment. They were there in 1998 too.

"It was a heck of a lot of work," Sensenbrenner recounted, adding, "The Judiciary Committee got all of Starr's evidence dumped on us with a few days notice."

In this case, there is no special prosecutor like Kenneth Starr to gather all that evidence. So the intelligence committee has been investigating instead with a series of closed-door depositions.

"This is not a joyful experience for anyone engaged in it, but it's an obligation that we have given the facts that have been discovered so far," Lofgren said.

Clinton famously said the process was beyond his control.

"It's not in my hands; it's in the hands of Congress and the people of this country — ultimately, in the hands of God. There is nothing I can do," he said in 1998.

Mr. Trump has mounted a more direct defense. "We had a totally appropriate – I even say perfect – conversation with the president of Ukraine," Mr. Trump said earlier this month. 

In the end, the House voted to bring impeachment charges against Clinton on two charges. But he was acquitted by the Senate less than two months later with some Republicans crossing party lines.

Sensenbrenner predicts the same outcome for Mr. Trump.

"The president is not going to be removed from office, I think everybody realizes that," Sensenbrenner said.

The split we're seeing on impeachment in Congress reflects the divide in the country. The most recent CBS News poll shows 53 percent approve of the inquiry into Mr. Trump and 47 percent disapprove.

In 1998, before the House voted to start the impeachment inquiry of Mr. Clinton, a CBS News poll found that 53 percent of Americans would be satisfied if no action were taken against the president and the entire matter were dropped.

By: Yaron Steinbuch of New York Post

The first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry that aired on TV screens across the US on Wednesday marked only the fourth time in history that Congress has considered removing a president from office.

The last time was in 1998, when Republicans brought charges against then-Democratic President Bill Clinton.

They also were also launched against Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974 before the House issued its indictment, and Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House in 1868 but acquitted by the Senate by a single vote.

Clinton lied under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern, triggering the impeachment inquiry in the lower chamber.

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” Clinton said on Jan. 26, 1998.

Like now, the parties were split at the time over whether the president’s actions represented what the Constitution deems to be “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

And just like today, the minority party argued that the opposition had been looking for a way to take down the president for years.

“He lied about sex, not an admirable thing, but really not an activity that shook the foundations of the Constitution and the democracy,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said, according to CBS News.

“The president of the United States should be held to the highest standard of anybody in the country,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

Both lawmakers were — and still are — members of the House Judiciary Committee, which handles impeachment.

“It was a heck of a lot of work. The Judiciary Committee got all of Starr’s evidence dumped on us with a few days’ notice,” Sensenbrenner said, referring to special prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

“This is not a joyful experience for anyone engaged in it, but it’s an obligation that we have given the facts that have been discovered so far,” Lofgren said.

Clinton famously said the process was beyond his control.

“It’s not in my hands; it’s in the hands of Congress and the people of this country — ultimately, in the hands of God. There is nothing I can do,” Clinton said in 1998.

President Trump has called the current process a “witch hunt” by the “Do Nothing Democrats.”

The House ultimately voted to bring impeachment charges against Clinton on two charges, but he was later acquitted by the Senate with some Republicans crossing party lines.

Sensenbrenner predicts the same outcome for Trump.

“The president is not going to be removed from office, I think everybody realizes that,” he said.

By: Emily Cochrane of the New York Times

Representative Peter J. Visclosky, a moderate Democrat from Indiana, said on Wednesday that he would retire after nearly four decades in the House, adding his name to a fast-growing list of veteran lawmakers who plan to leave Congress next year.

The departure of Mr. Visclosky, a senior member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, which allocates federal spending, is the latest evidence of an exodus from Congress of experienced lawmakers who have made their careers in the political center, and are leaving elected office as polarization intensifies.

The longest-serving member of Indiana’s congressional delegation, Mr. Visclosky made the announcement exactly 35 years after he was elected to the seat in 1984. He thanked his constituents in a statement announcing his retirement for “their trust and for providing me the incredible life privilege” of serving in Congress.

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Visclosky, 70, developed a low-key reputation as a moderate Democrat of the old school, focusing on issues important to his blue-collar district, and forging relationships with Republicans as a member of the appropriations panel, where partisanship often takes a back seat to practical questions of dollars and cents.

“For my entire career, I have worked to build support for our domestic steel industry and organized labor, secure investments in transformational projects and improve our quality of place to benefit the only place I have ever called home,” he said on Wednesday.

Mr. Visclosky is the eighth member of the Democratic caucus to announce his intent to leave his seat after 2020, either because of retirement or to seek another elected office, compared with 19 Republicans. It comes as several Democrats are facing primary challengers from their left flank and Republicans are weighing the effect of sharing the ballot with President Trump in the 2020 election.

Republicans have also been losing some of their few remaining moderate members as the tides have shifted, with Representative Will Hurd of Texas and Francis Rooney of Florida both planning to retire.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a nod to Mr. Visclosky’s tenure, called him “a pillar of the House of Representatives and an icon for Indiana’s working families” and said “his guidance and friendship will be greatly missed by his colleagues.”

His exit will also fuel the growing trend of some of the most senior lawmakers departing Capitol Hill, leaving the next Congress with less experience and expertise to rely on, and fewer lawmakers who can recall a time when they cut legislative deals with members of the other party. (The Republican conference imposes term limits for committee leadership positions.)

Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, who announced his retirement in September, notched a series of bipartisan achievements and multiple chairmanships during his decades of tenure.

Four committees will lose their top Republican after 2020 with the retirements of Representatives Mac Thornberry of Texas, the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee; Rob Bishop of Utah on the Natural Resources Committee; K. Michael Conaway of Texas on the Agriculture Committee; and Representative Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon on the Energy and Commerce committee.

For Democrats, Mr. Visclosky is also the second member of the appropriations panel to announce his retirement in the last month, following Representative Nita M. Lowey, Democrat of New York and the committee chairwoman. Representative José E. Serrano, another Democrat of New York on the committee and the nation’s longest-tenured Hispanic congressman, said in March that he would also step down.

Ms. Lowey, in a statement, applauded Mr. Visclosky as “a supporter of a robust mix of defense, diplomacy and development to keep our nation safe and strong.” Mr. Visclosky oversees the subcommittee that allocates military spending.

The son of an iron worker, he also serves as vice chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus. His district, a Democratic stronghold in Indiana, borders Chicago and Lake Michigan.

Mr. Visclosky offered a parting note of guidance to his successor, encouraging those who wish to follow in his steps to “be for something and not against someone.”

“Strive to overcome the intolerance that grips our nation,” Mr. Visclosky said, “and recognize that only through mutual respect, rational discourse, cooperation and fair play can we build a good and strong community and country.”

By: Jim Sensenbrenner & Steve Chabot in the Wall Street Journal

Tensions ran high 20 years ago as we stood in the well of the Senate before Chief Justice William Rehnquist, all 100 senators and the nation. As House impeachment managers, we presented our case against President Clinton. We were somber but confident, knowing that we had afforded Mr. Clinton every due-process right to defend himself.

Now we find ourselves on the verge of another presidential impeachment. But this time the process is so fundamentally unfair that justice cannot be served. For the past two months, House Democrats, led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, have conducted a sham investigation with predetermined conclusions. It will do unthinkable damage to the credibility of the House and to the nation.

Since President Trump took the oath of office, Mr. Schiff has led a quest to overturn the 2016 election. We have both worked with Mr. Schiff on the Judiciary Committee, and one of us (Mr. Sensenbrenner) has managed two judicial impeachments (of Samuel B. Kent and G. Thomas Porteous Jr. ) alongside him. While in those cases he was fair and reasonable, here he has let his blind hatred of the president poison his conduct and destroy his credibility.

For more than two years, Mr. Schiff misled the public about having clear evidence that Mr. Trump colluded with the Russians to steal the election. Special counsel Robert Mueller found no such evidence. Mr. Schiff then set his eyes on the next “scandal.” A seemingly too-good-to-be-true report appeared, accusing the president of improper action. Mr. Schiff took to cable news to propagate the new narrative, but it soon began to crumble. We learned that the biased “whistleblower” had contacted Mr. Schiff’s committee before filing his report, and Mr. Schiff lied about it.

Nevertheless, Speaker Nancy Pelosi decreed the House to have begun an impeachment inquiry and Mr. Schiff launched three weeks of closed-door hearings. He played judge and jury, selectively leaking private testimony to fuel a smear campaign. In blatant disregard of congressional practice, he has prevented elected members from asking certain questions of his “star witnesses.”

The American people saw through this charade, and Mrs. Pelosi brought the rules for this process up for a vote last week. But it’s too little and too late.

The rules resolution falls woefully short of the Constitution’s due-process standard. Every American has the right to hear all evidence presented against him, face his accuser directly, and mount a defense. We made sure to afford Mr. Clinton these rights in 1998-99.

The president’s counsel must have the right to participate in all impeachment proceedings. The congressional minority must have an equal right to call witnesses, subpoena documents and cross-examine witnesses.

Last week’s resolution is an absolute failure to protect those rights. It permits Mr. Schiff to continue with his closed-door depositions, and it grants him sole authority to decide which information is relevant, which witnesses can testify and which evidence will be transferred to the Judiciary Committee.

When the Intelligence Committee turns over the proceedings to the Judiciary Committee, Chairman Jerry Nadler will then have the authority to deny the president’s counsel access to evidence, the ability to cross-examine witnesses and the full ability to participate in other ways. It’s laughable to claim that’s fair or impartial.

Americans should be concerned about the denial of fundamental constitutional rights to the president of the United States. If it can happen to him, whom can’t it happen to?

From day one, the Democrats have had their sights set on impeachment and have charted a process that could only lead to that end. By denying due process to this president, Democrats have delegitimized the House and its constitutional powers, and have done irreparable damage to the country.

Messrs. Sensenbrenner and Chabot, both Republicans, represent Wisconsin’s Fifth and Ohio’s First congressional districts, respectively.

Washington, D.C.Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) offered the following statement regarding the Democrats partisan-fueled impeachment resolution:

“An unfair process can only lead to an unfair result, and this entire process has been fundamentally unfair to the President. Just as no American — including the President — is above the law, no one is below it either. Yet, Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Schiff continue to rob the President of his due process rights. The rules outlined in today’s resolution fall embarrassingly short of any objective fairness and will further damage the credibility of our institution.”

By Emma Dumain of McClatchy

A House task force is within “30 to 45 days” of releasing a report laying out which states with histories of voter suppression should be required to get permission from the federal government before changing local election laws.

The report, nearly a year in the making, is expected to propose that more states with histories of voter suppression should have to submit to “preclearance” beyond the original list of 14 jurisdictions subject to that mandate prior to the Supreme Court striking it down in 2013.

“Not only do the original 14 jurisdictions ... need to stay there, they need to be expanded,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, who is spearheading the effort as chairwoman of a House elections subcommittee. “I live in Ohio. Ohio should be a part of preclearance. Parts of Pennsylvania should be a part of preclearance. And I could go on and on,” she said.

“We have enough data,” Fudge told McClatchy. “We have tens of thousands of pages of data. We’ve had nine hearings. We have a pretty good understanding of what the formula should be.”

When the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, it required certain states with histories of voter discrimination and disenfranchisement to be “precleared” before changing voting laws. A formula was established to determine which states would be subject to this requirement.

In 2013, the Supreme Court determined the formula was out-of-date for determining which states ought to be penalized and threw it out, challenging Congress to come up with a new one.

Fudge has been leading efforts over the past 10 months to create a new formula, traveling to different states to receive testimony and compile data. But she is likely to face obstacles in the weeks ahead — from Republicans and even members of her own party.

In their eagerness to fulfill a 2018 legislative campaign promise by year-end, House Democratic leaders are moving ahead with a separate bill, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which establishes its own preclearance formula that would only apply to 11 states: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

This bill, which was passed along party lines in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, is expected to be considered on the House floor in November.

A senior Democratic aide and a spokesman for House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., both said separately they expected Fudge’s bill would be integrated into the Voting Rights Advancement Act prior to a floor vote.

But it’s unclear how the different formulas would be reconciled in a short amount of time, especially if Democratic party leaders want to pass their bill before the end of the legislative session — and at a time when their ongoing impeachment inquiry is rapidly overshadowing everything else.

Fudge — who asked for this assignment late last year in exchange for backing Nancy Pelosi of California for House Speaker — said she was unsure why House Democratic leadership is rushing to advance a bill that might need to be updated later.

“It’s most unusual,” she said.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., a close ally of Fudge and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, supported the Voting Rights Advancement Act on Wednesday but said he would have preferred to wait for Fudge to complete her report.

“I thought it was a mistake. I thought they should have waited,” he said of the move by Democratic leaders to push the legislation forward.

Some lawmakers are concerned that if Fudge’s findings get integrated into the broader bill, her efforts to respond to the Supreme Court’s challenge could get tainted by partisanship.

GOP lawmakers say they oppose the bill because it prohibits voter ID laws and requires states to get permission before putting in place very specific election procedures that have a history of being used for discriminatory practices.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., a longtime supporter of preclearance who tried to pressure House Republican leadership to restore the formula in previous congresses and helped negotiate the last bipartisan Voting Rights Act reauthorization in 2006, accused Democrats on Wednesday of advancing a “poison pill.”

“This is a messaging bill,” Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio, another GOP proponent of the Voting RIghts Act, agreed.

Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, the senior Republican on the elections subcommittee, said he felt very good about the process Fudge was undertaking and wouldn’t rule out being able to support her recommendations. But he said Democrats rushing to move the legislation through the Judiciary Committee was “tragic” and showed “they didn’t give a damn what we’ve heard in our subcommittee hearings.”

There’s no guarantee, however, that Republicans would ever support a rewrite of the preclearance formula in the Democratic-controlled House or the Republican-controlled Senate.

Some Republicans, like Sensenbrenner, wanted to address this issue when Republicans were in control of the House. But even those party leaders who claimed to be sympathetic to voting rights were hamstrung by rank-and-file lawmakers who were glad the mandate had been struck down, arguing that election laws should be left to the local governments and the old rules unfairly stigmatized their states.

While Davis insisted that Fudge was facilitating a process that could bring in Republican support, her more exhaustive list of states could end up alienating more GOP lawmakers who don’t want their states penalized. Davis conceded on Wednesday he had not yet spoken to his leadership about whether they’d support this effort.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., expressed some interest in debating the Voting Rights Act when he was the majority leader in 2015. His press office did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday regarding his current position.

Washington, D.C.Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05), the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and author of the 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, delivered the following statement at today’s committee markup of H.R. 4:

Image

(You can watch his remarks here)

Mr. Chairman,

I think that my record in support of extending the Voting Rights Act and strengthening the Voting Rights Act speaks for itself. We’ve heard numerous comments by my colleagues from the other side of the aisle about those efforts—most recently in 2006.

Unfortunately, moving H.R. 4 today is going to set back efforts to fix the mistake that the Supreme Court made in the Shelby County case.

Every civil rights bill since the 1950s that has passed and been signed into law has been done on a bipartisan basis. This bill is not.

Now, following the Shelby County case, I was involved in a number of negotiations with people on the other side of the aisle to figure out what we could do to come up with a compromise bill that would attract bipartisan support. We were able to achieve that, but there are those who are opposed to the entire philosophy of the Voting Rights Act, specifically pre-clearance that ended up obstructing bringing that out.

During those negotiations, people on both sides—Republicans and Democrats—gave things up to try to reach something that would get bipartisan support. We were successful in doing that.

What has happened in this bill is that all of the things that Democrats gave up gets back in the bill. It’s kind of like the phoenix rising from the ashes. But none of the things the Republicans gave up end up going back into the bill. So, again, it is undoing the bipartisan negotiations that occurred in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

As a result, this bill will pass the House, it won’t go anywhere in the Senate, and is another partisan move that has made something, previously bipartisan in nature, partisan. It is a poison pill. It will be viewed that way. It will never become law.

So I’m not going to vote for this bill, despite my record and support of voting rights protections. I do believe that of all of the civil rights laws that were passed in the 50s and 60s, the Voting Rights Act was the most important and provided the most society and political change that this country has seen.

But this is not going to fix the problem of the Supreme Court. And that’s why I would ask my friends on the majority side to step back and decide whether you want an issue or do you want a law?

I vote for a law and I yield back.

Background:

First codified in 1965, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) protected citizens by requiring states with historical patterns of discriminatory voting practices accountable. States that failed to meet requirements covered under Section 4 of the VRA had to preclear any changes to an election with the Department of Justice. A state could seek relief from the preclearance requirement after demonstrating to the D.C. Circuit Court that it had not committed any voter discrimination infractions within a ten-year period.

Congressman Sensenbrenner led negotiations in the 1982 reauthorization which passed the House 389-24 and the Senate 85-8 and was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. A ceremonial signing pen hangs in Congressmen Sensenbrenner’s office.

As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Sensenbrenner led another VRA reauthorization in 2006. The Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, And Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act passed the House by 390-33 and the Senate by 98-0. President George w. Bush signed it into law on July 26, 2006.

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that the standard for deciding whether a state met the threshold to be covered by preclearance requirements was unconstitutional because it was based on outdated information regarding voter discrimination. The decision effectively rendered Section 5 of the VRA unenforceable.

Less than a month after the Court made its ruling, Congressman Sensenbrenner testified alongside civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis (GA-05) before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of fixing and reinstating the coverage formula of the Voting Rights Act. Together, they introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act the following March to restore the formula in a way that addresses the Court’s concerns. Congressman Sensenbrenner has reintroduced similar legislation in every Congress since.

The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2019 would apply equally to every state and only covers states with five documented violations within the last 15 years.