Senator Specter on NAMUDNO, Congressional Power to Renew the Voting Rights Act

Back in 2006 when I testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about congressional power to pass a renewed section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (based upon this 2005 law review article considering the question), I remember being impressed by Senator Specter’s questions to the panel. Not only did he seem to be legitimately interested in the answers that panel members were giving, he seemed really to be (the only Senator) struggling with how to craft a renewed VRA that would pass constitutional muster before a Supreme Court increasingly skeptical of broad congressional power in this area.
I was reminded of that when I saw this letter that Senator Specter sent to Judge Sotomayor about the kind of questions he intends to ask at her confirmation hearing. Though the letter is directed to Judge Sotomayor, it takes a not-so-subtle shot at Chief Justice Roberts’ views of congressional power, first as expressed at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and then as expressed at the oral argument in NAMUDNO.

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