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Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Congressional Black Caucus and civil rights leaders on Thursday denounced Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, saying his vote would be a threat to voting rights — pointing to the South Carolina voter ID law he voted to uphold.

Why it matters:

"If you look at what has happened just over the last few years at the Supreme Court with the closely divided decisions on issues that deeply [affect] the rights and protections of African Americans, you will understand why this moment is so important for us."
— Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel, NAACP Legal Defense Fund

What happened: Advocates highlighted Kavanaugh's refusal to answer Sen. Kamala Harris during Wednesday's confirmation hearing on whether he thinks Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is constitutional.

Think Progress reports that Kavanaugh sought to downplay the significance of the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling, which invalidated a key VRA provision that had long required states with a history of racial discrimination to seek federal approval before changing their voting laws.

Flashback: The Obama administration had blocked the South Carolina law, saying it would disenfranchise thousands of black voters and violate the VRA. But the state, arguing it would deter voter fraud, sought approval from a federal court.

  • Kavanaugh wrote in a 2012 opinion that it "does not have a discriminatory retrogressive effect" and "was not enacted for a discriminatory purpose."
  • However, he delayed its implementation ahead of the 2012 elections, acknowledging that "[t]here is too much of a risk to African-American voters for us to roll the dice."

Go deeper

6 hours ago - World

Top general: U.S. losing time to deter China

Stanley McChrystal. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Stanley McChrystal, a top retired general and Biden adviser, tells Axios that "China's military capacity has risen much faster than people appreciate," and the U.S. is running out of time to counterbalance that in Asia and prevent a scenario such as it seizing Taiwan.

Why it matters: McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently briefed the president-elect as part of his cabinet of diplomatic and national security advisers. President-elect Joe Biden is considering which Trump- or Obama-era approaches to keep or discard, and what new strategies to pursue.

Progressives shift focus from Biden's Cabinet to his policy agenda

Joe Biden giving remarks in Wilmington, Del., last month. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Some progressives tell Axios they believe the window for influencing President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet selections has closed, and they’re shifting focus to policy — hoping to shape Biden's agenda even before he’s sworn in.

Why it matters: The left wing of the party often draws attention for its protests, petitions and tweets, but this deliberate move reflects a determination to move beyond some fights they won't win to engage with Biden strategically, and over the long term.

Dave Lawler, author of World
8 hours ago - World

Venezuela's predictable elections herald an uncertain future

The watchful eyes of Hugo Chávez on an election poster in Caracas. Photo: Cristian Hernandez/AFP via Getty

Venezuelans will go to the polls on Sunday, Nicolás Maduro will complete his takeover of the last opposition-held body, and much of the world will refuse to recognize the results.

The big picture: The U.S. and dozens of other countries have backed an opposition boycott of the National Assembly elections on the grounds that — given Maduro's tactics (like tying jobs and welfare benefits to voting), track record, and control of the National Electoral Council — they will be neither free nor fair.