Attorney General Eric Holder's plan to ask a federal court to reinstate the Justice Department's authority over voting laws in Texas smacks of despotism by the Obama White House, Sen. Orrin Hatch tells Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview.
"The court has already ruled — and he's trying to reinstitute the Voting Rights Act in Texas," the Utah Republican tells Newsmax. "If I were a Texan, I'd be so doggone livid that I don't think I'd ever get over it. That's not the thing to do, and it just shows how this administration ignores the law.
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"They act like they're despots," he adds. "The president is continuously doing things that he has no authority to do — and yet they just do it and they get away with it because many in the liberal media just will not hold them to account like they would a Republican president."
Holder said on Thursday the Texas measure was part of a new Obama administration strategy to challenge state and local election laws it says discriminate by race.
"Based on the evidence of intentional racial discrimination that was presented last year in the redistricting case, Texas v. Holder ... we believe that the state of Texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices," Holder told the annual conference of the National Urban League, a civil rights organization, in Philadelphia.
The White House has been seeking ways to oppose voting discrimination since the U.S. Supreme Court in June invalidated a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The 5-4 conservative majority on the high court ruled that a formula used to determine which states and localities were subject to extra federal scrutiny was outdated.
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The ruling freed Texas and certain other jurisdictions from having to submit their voting laws to the Justice Department before they could take effect.
The covered jurisdictions were mostly in the South, where there was a history of denying minorities the right to vote. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the South had changed dramatically, however.
Hatch, 79, the Senate's most senior Republican, agrees.
"The Civil War's been over for a long time," Hatch tells Newsmax. "We've come a long way on civil rights. The states are doing a terrific job in most respects.
"The ones that used to be under the Voting Rights Act provisions — some of the worst states are blue states, where they treat minorities like dirt and don't take care of them, don't do what's right by them — and, frankly, a lot of this liberal stuff comes out of those states," he says.
Turning his attention to Obama's newfound interest in resuscitating the nation's economy, Hatch describes the president's recent speeches as "déjà vu all over again. He just can't get away from blaming George Bush and the prior administration for everything.
"How many times have we heard this speech? We’ve certainly heard these failed ideas over and over again over the last four-plus years. They haven't worked, Mr. President. The American people know they haven't worked. The president can travel around and give these campaign speeches and blame Congress all he wants.
"The American people are looking for jobs, not more speeches," Hatch adds. "They're looking for opportunities for themselves and their families, not more speeches. They want to hear solutions and see the economy improve, not more speeches.
"Here we go again. It's good to see the president get back in the game — or at least say he's going to focus on the economy again. The Republicans in Congress have been laser-focused on the economy, so if this is the time the president's going to actually work with us and try some of our ideas, then great. But I'm certainly not optimistic."
Hatch, however, is more upbeat about a plan he and Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana plan to introduce Friday to revamp the nation's byzantine tax code.
"I was pushing pretty hard to start with a blank slate and then see what has to be added to that," Hatch tells Newsmax. "There's no bill to mark-up just yet.
"We simply have to redo this tax code. It's not efficient. It's not competitive. It doesn't help job-creators. It doesn't help hard-working middle-class families. We've got a lot of work cut out for us — and frankly, we both agree it should be a revenue-neutral approach."
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But Baucus has since said that any new tax plan should generate some revenue, Hatch says.
"I guess the leadership in the Democratic Senate got to Sen. Baucus, and he has said there has to be some revenue — but he didn't say how much or what."
In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said on Thursday that he would not participate in the tax-reform negotiations. Both he and another Democratic senator, Charles Schumer of New York, said that raising nearly $1 trillion in revenue should be the starting point for any such talks.
"We've already given them $600 billion in taxes in the fiscal-cliff deal," Hatch says, referring to the January agreement that is expected to bring in revenue over 10 years. "And that's, as far as I'm concerned, all the taxes they're going to get."
Editor's Note: See the full Newsmax interview with Orrin Hatch, and excerpts:
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