Obama discusses voting rights, sequester

Feb. 22, 2013 at 9:27 AM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The Voting Rights Act challenge before the Supreme Court and the sequester were among topics U.S. President Obama discussed in an interview on SiriusXM Friday.

In a broad-ranged interview with SiriusXM host Joe Madison, Obama called the Voting Rights Act the "lynch pin of expanding our democracy" during the civil rights movement.

The Supreme Court is to hear arguments next week on a challenge to the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County, Ala., vs. Holder. Shelby County is asking the court to strike down Section 5, which requires jurisdictions with the worst histories of discrimination to seek federal approval to ensure they don't harm voters of color when changing voting rules.

"If Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is struck down, then that pre-clearance process would go away," Obama said. "You'd still have laws in place that would insist that everybody has the right to vote but the difference is that you'd now have to wait until after ... some of these mechanisms had been put into place before you filed suit to try to get them struck down."

During his State of the Union address, Obama announced a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in the United States.

"I said it's very important that we work together to make sure everybody gets a chance to vote and we clear away a lot of this nonsense," Obama said.

People wouldn't lose their right to vote if Section 5 is struck down, Obama said, "you just won't have this mechanism, this tool, that allows you to kind of stay ahead of certain practices that may discourage people from voting."

Concerning the sequester -- the $85 billion in automatic cuts in federal spending that takes effect March 1 if nothing is done -- Obama said, "as a practical matter [it means] is that you're going to have big cuts across the board in every agency ... and in some cases that means that good programs are going to be cut, in some cases bad programs are going to be cut less than they should."

"It's estimated that hundreds or thousands of people, if they don't lose their jobs in layoffs, will be furloughed so that they end up taking a 15 [percent] or a 20 percent pay cut," Obama said, "[which] obviously any family would find extremely difficult."

Republicans, Obama said, have indicated in the past that tax loopholes need to be closed.

"But they, I think, at this point feel as if they don't want the wealthy and the well connected to pay even a dime more in taxes," Obama told Madison. "They would rather see this sequester go in to effect."

He urged listeners to tell their congressional representatives, "especially if they live in a Republican district, that this is a really bad idea and that they should compromise and come up with a more sensible approach."

Obama called it "a great honor" that a statue of civil rights activist Rosa Parks being added to the National Statuary Hall.

"She represented better than anybody the kind of strength and determination that so many ordinary Americans show every single day in pursuit of a better country," he said of the black woman who took a seat in the front of the bus instead of sitting in the back as she was supposed to do. "She was an inspiration not just to African-Americans but to all people who are looking for justice ..."

Asked about his time on the golf course with professional golfer Tiger Woods during the Presidents' Day weekend, Obama said, "I think it is fair to say that his score was far better than mine."

Fortunately, Obama added, "as president of the United States, I had the option of choosing the teams and he was on my team."

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