The House majority leader has been a rare Republican voice urging assurances that last year's Supreme Court decision to nullify core provisions of the landmark voter protection bill won't foster discrimination at the polls.
Yet he's given no indication how Congress should proceed or what he would support – a vague position that will be tested now that specific legislation has been introduced with the backing of several prominent Republicans.
Cantor's office said he's still examining the proposal, would require states with five violations of federal voting laws over the last 15 years to get pre-clearance from Washington before altering their election procedures. All eyes will be on the majority leader's response, which could be the make-or-break moment for the proposal's chances this year.
There are compelling reasons for Cantor to get on board. As the majority leader, Cantor is on the front lines of the fight to increase the GOP’s control over the lower chamber in November. Republican leaders won't want to be seen blocking a bill designed to protect voters – particularly one with bipartisan support – especially at a time where they’re trying to expand their party’s minority outreach.
The bill also includes a sweetener for Virginians. Under the old provisions shot down by the Supreme Court, the Old Dominion was one of nine states with histories of voter discrimination required to get federal approval before they changed their election procedures. Under the new proposal – which aims to update the formula dictating which states are subject to the extra scrutiny – only four states would be forced to seek such approval. Virginia is not among them.
The states that would remain are Texas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, all states that have actively tried to suppress the minority vote and have been called out as doing so. There's zero way Republicans in those states will go along, so Cantor will have a revolt on his hands. On the other hand, if he doesn't bring this up for a vote, Democrats will be able to say "Well, which party really cares about voting rights? It's not the GOP."
The GOP rebranding continues.