Updated 3:36 p.m.
A key U.S. senator has pledged legislation that will plug any holes in the Voting Rights Act left by Tuesday's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that he intends "to take immediate action to ensure that we will have a strong and reconstituted Voting Rights Act that protects against racial discrimination in voting."
Leahy pointed out that Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act and it was signed into law by a Republican president in 2006, saying it was "a thorough and bipartisan process in which Congress overwhelmingly determined that the law was still vital to protecting minority voting rights and that the coverage formula determining the jurisdictions to be covered was still applicable."
"Despite this sound record, and the weight of history, a narrow majority has decided today to substitute its own judgment over the exhaustive legislative findings of Congress," Leahy said in the statement.
There was not a lot of optimism that a partisan Congress would make a fix. "This is a radically different Congress than the one that passed the last extension," said Norman Ornstein, an expert on Congress with the American Enterprise Institute. "I think the odds of the short term are very very slim, and I think the Supreme Court knew that."
The reason, Ornstein said, is that the Congress is not only more partisan now, but it is "tribal." Any effort to change this now will either flounder in a filibuster in the Senate or have no action in the House Judiciary Committee, Ornstein said.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) conveyed skepticism in a statement issued after the Supreme Court's ruling.
"As long as Republicans have a majority in the House and Democrats don't have 60 votes in the Senate, there will be no preclearance. It is confounding that after decades of progress on voting rights, which have become part of the American fabric, the Supreme Court would tear it asunder," Schumer said.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the judiciary committee's ranking member, said in a statement that Tuesday’s decision still protects both the anti-discrimination provisions of this law and the Tenth Amendment.
"Most importantly, the Supreme Court ensured that discrimination remains unlawful, but, the court said that preclearance of voting changes cannot be based on election laws and voter registration and turnout as they existed in the 1960s and early 1970s," Grassley said. "No longer will any Justice Department be able to misuse the Voting Rights Act concerning such common sense measures as voter identification laws."
The effort to repair the law is expected to have a Republican counterpart on the other side. Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) was a leader in passing the reauthorization in 2006. Sensenbrenner called Section 5 an important part of the Voting Rights Act, in an interview in March with The Huffington Post.
"If it's struck down and fixable, Congress has the obligation to fix it," Sensenbrenner said then. He had not issued a reaction early Tuesday to the high court decision in Shelby.
A New York Times reporter said on Twitter that Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights pioneer, told him: "What the Supreme Court did was to put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act."
But there are also signs of opposition in Congress. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) said in a written statement that the ruling was a win for fairness and the rule of law.
"The preclearance requirement forced South Carolina to spend millions of dollars to defend a photo identification requirement for voting that had already been ruled constitutional by the US Supreme Court," Duncan said. "The court's ruling will hopefully end the practice of treating states differently and recognizes that we live in 2013, not the 1960s."