MSNBC's Hayes: Justice Roberts 'Plunged' a 'Knife' into 'Soft Underbelly' of Voting Rights Act

On Tuesday's All In show, Chris Hayes used an over the top metaphor of violence to recount the day's Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act, as the MSNBC host opened the show by asserting that Chief Justice John Roberts had driven a "knife" into the "soft underbelly" of the act and "dragged the gasping, dying body across the street onto the steps of the Capitol." Hayes:

But we begin tonight with the truly stunning decision by the Supreme Court where, if I may speak metaphorically, I believe John Roberts took out a knife and plunged it into the Voting Rights Act's soft underbelly and then dragged the gasping, dying body across the street onto the steps of the Capitol building and left it there with a note to Congress saying it would be a shame if this law were to die.

He added:

The decision in this case, Shelby County V. Holder is one that I believe will go down in the annals of history as one of this court's absolute worst. It was an act of supreme judicial hubris and activism in which a slim five-justice majority ruled a key provision of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional and, thus, in the short term, killed off the core of that act.

He later suggested that the conservative majority were being underhanded in employing a "clever way of killing it without admitting to killing it."

The MSNBC host elaborated:

These are people that sit just a block away from the Capitol. They look out at the House caucus. They know who this Congress is, who it represents, and what it does every day. They know how unlikely it is that this Congress will be able to save the Voting Rights Act, come up with a new formula that suits the Supreme Court. We all know how likely that is.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Tuesday, June 25, All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC:

CHRIS HAYES: But we begin tonight with the truly stunning decision by the Supreme Court where, if I may speak metaphorically, I believe John Roberts took out a knife and plunged it into the Voting Rights Act's soft underbelly and then dragged the gasping, dying body across the street onto the steps of the Capitol building and left it there with a note to Congress saying it would be a shame if this law were to die.

The decision in this case, Shelby County V. Holder is one that I believe will go down in the annals of history as one of this court's absolute worst. It was an act of supreme judicial hubris and activism in which a slim five-justice majority ruled a key provision of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional and, thus, in the short term, killed off the core of that act.

Now, whether it can be revived is an open question, one we'll visit in a moment. But, first, you have to understand what the court did today, because there was a lot of confusion and there was confusion on part because it was complicated, it was complicated on purpose. I want to just walk through it.

(...)

The United States Congress has re-authorized the Voting Rights Act four times, most recently in 2006 by huge bipartisan margins. But today in a 5-4 majority decision, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, a man who has expressed skepticism toward the Voting Rights Act from the time he was a young lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department, the court decided that the formula Congress passed is unconstitutional. That Congress just did it wrong. They didn't like their math.

This despite the fact that the 15th Amendment for which hundreds of thousands of Americans died, and which explicitly gives Congress the authority to enforce the right to vote, despite the plain text of that part of the Constitution, nope, said Roberts and Alito and Thomas and Kennedy and Scalia, we don't like the way you did it. So they struck it down. And then said to Congress, if you want to keep that law, you seem to like so much, then fix it in a way that we like. If that sounds ambiguous, complicated, it is ambiguous and complicated. It is by design.

So let's be very clear about what that means. What the Roberts court majority wants to do is, I think quite clearly, kill off Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the pre-clearance provision, altogether. But they understand how politically toxic that would be, so they have come up instead with a clever way of killing it without admitting to killing it.

These are people that sit just a block away from the Capitol. They look out at the House caucus. They know who this Congress is, who it represents, and what it does every day. They know how unlikely it is that this Congress will be able to save the Voting Rights Act, come up with a new formula that suits the Supreme Court. We all know how likely that is.

And so all of the people telling you today, the law is not dead, they are right. But it's wounded. And before we move on to how it might be saved, which is absolutely a moral and legal imperative, and can be done, let us not skip too quickly over the part where the Supreme Court tried to kill it today.

(...)