MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.
At issue in this case is the construction of § 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U. S. C. § 1973b (1970 ed. and Supp. V). "The Voting Rights Act was designed by Congress to banish the blight of racial discrimination in voting." South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 308 (1966). While the Act has had a dramatic effect in increasing the participation of black citizens in the electoral process, both as voters and elected officials, Congress has not viewed it as an unqualified success.
Petitioners, the Governor and Secretary of State of Texas, filed suit in the District Court for the District of Columbia against the Attorney General of the United States and the Director of the Census.
Respondents opposed the motion for a preliminary injunction, and moved to dismiss the suit for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and for lack of jurisdiction to review determinations made under § 4 (b). The jurisdictional argument was based on the final paragraph of § 4 (b),
On appeal to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, respondents discussed but did not "take issue with" the jurisdictional ruling of the District Court. The Court of Appeals nevertheless considered the issue carefully, concluding:
Turning to the merits of petitioners' procedural and statutory construction arguments, the Court of Appeals thoroughly analyzed the statute and the legislative history. It found that respondents had correctly interpreted the Act and affirmed the judgment of the District Court.
We granted certiorari sub nom. Briscoe v. Levi, 429 U.S. 997 (1976). Although respondents do not assert before us the jurisdictional objection raised in the District Court, we find that the courts below incorrectly concluded that they had power to review respondents' determinations that Texas was covered by the Act. See Philbrook v. Glodgett, 421 U.S. 707, 721 (1975), and cases there cited. We therefore order dismissal of the complaint without reaching the merits of petitioners' claims.
Section 4 (b) of the Voting Rights Act could hardly prohibit judicial review in more explicit terms. It states that a "determination or certification of the Attorney General or of the
The Voting Rights Act was conceived by Congress as a stern and powerful remedy to combat "an insidious and pervasive evil which had been perpetuated in certain parts of our country through unremitting and ingenious defiance of the Constitution." South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U. S., at 309. The stringent remedial provisions of the Act
The drafters' specific comments on § 4 (b) further support this view. The House Report stated that the coverage formula "requires certain factual determinations—determinations that are final when made and not reviewable in court." H. R. Rep. No. 439, 89th Cong., 1st Sess., 25 (1965). The minority report criticized the Act precisely because it went into effect "without evidence, without a judicial proceeding or a
Congress was well aware, however, that the simple formula of § 4 (b) might bring within its sweep governmental units not guilty of any unlawful discriminatory voting practices. It afforded such jurisdictions immediately available protection in the form of an action to terminate coverage under § 4 (a) of the Act. While this so-called "bailout" suit is subject to narrow procedural and substantive limitations,
Although this Court has never considered at length the scope of the § 4 (b) preclusion clause, we have indicated that the words of the statute mean what they say. In South Carolina v. Katzenbach, supra, the Court upheld the constitutionality
Similarly, in Gaston County v. United States, 395 U.S. 285 (1969), we stated that "[t]he coverage formula chosen by Congress was designed to be speedy, objective, and incontrovertible." Id., at 291-292. A footnote added: "Section 4 (b) of the Act makes the determinations by the Attorney General and the Director of the Census unreviewable in any court." Id., at 292 n. 6. See also id., at 287. The significant part played by the discretionary authority of the Attorney General in administering the Act is also underlined by Morris v. Gressette, post, p. 491. There the Court finds no authority to review the Attorney General's failure to object, under § 5 of the Act, to a change in the voting laws of a covered jurisdiction. Although § 5 contains no express preclusion of review, the Court concludes from its structure and purposes that Congress intended no prolonged suspension of the operation of validly enacted state laws to allow judicial review. Since § 4 (b) expressly provides that the administrative determinations "shall not be reviewable in any court," and conclusions similar to those in Morris may be drawn from the statutory structure, the case for preclusion is, if anything, stronger here than in Morris.
We conclude, then, that the plain meaning and history of § 4 (b), the purpose and structure of the Act, as well as this Court's interpretation of it, indicate that judicial review of § 4 (b) determinations by the Attorney General and the Director of the Census is absolutely barred. There is in this case "`persuasive reason to believe that such was the purpose
Under these circumstances, the Court of Appeals erred in relying on cases that inferred jurisdiction to review administrative actions where there was no clear showing of preclusion.
On that score, the finality of determinations under § 4 (b), like the preclearance requirement of § 5, may well be "an uncommon exercise of congressional power," South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U. S., at 334; see also Morris v. Gressette, post, at 501. But there can be no question that in attacking the pervasive evils and tenacious defenders of voting discrimination, Congress acted within its "power to enforce" the Fourteenth
For the foregoing reasons, we hold that the courts below erred in finding that they had jurisdiction to review petitioners' claims of erroneous application of § 4 (b). The only procedure available to Texas to seek termination of Voting Rights Act coverage is a bailout suit under the strict limitations of § 4 (a). Accordingly, the decision of the Court of Appeals is vacated, and the case is remanded with instructions to direct the District Court to dismiss the complaint.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE POWELL concurs in the judgment of the Court.
"The Congress finds that voting discrimination against citizens of language minorities is pervasive and national in scope. Such minority citizens are from environments in which the dominant language is other than English. In addition they have been denied equal educational opportunities by State and local governments, resulting in severe disabilities and continuing illiteracy in the English language. The Congress further finds that, where State and local officials conduct elections only in English, language minority citizens are excluded from participating in the electoral process. In many areas of the country, this exclusion is aggravated by acts of physical, economic, and political intimidation. The Congress declares that, in order to enforce the guarantees of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments to the United States Constitution, it is necessary to eliminate such discrimination by prohibiting English-only elections, and by prescribing other remedial devices."
"The term `language minorities' or `language minority group' means persons who are American Indian, Asian American, Alaskan Natives or of Spanish heritage." § 14 (c) (3) of the Act, 42 U. S. C. § 1973l (c) (3) (1970 ed., Supp. V). See Senate Report 24; House Report 16. The language minority protections apply only to jurisdictions where "the Director of the Census determines that more than five per centum of the citizens of voting age . . . are members of a single language minority." § 4 (f) (3) of the Act, 42 U. S. C. § 1973b (f) (3) (1970 ed., Supp. V).
"[T]he provisions of subsection (a) of this section shall apply in any State or any political subdivision of a State which (i) the Attorney General determines maintained on November 1, 1972, any test or device, and with respect to which (ii) the Director of the Census determines that less than 50 per centum of the citizens of voting age were registered on November 1, 1972, or that less than 50 per centum of such persons voted in the Presidential election of November 1972."
The Attorney General found that Texas had maintained the "test or device" of English-only elections. The Director of the Census calculated from his agency's statistics that more than 5% of the voting age citizens in Texas were of Spanish heritage, and that 46.2% of voting age citizens cast ballots in the 1972 Presidential election:
Estimated number Voting age population on November 1, 1972........... 7,655,000 Less aliens of voting age........................... 140,657 Citizens of voting age.............................. 7,514,343 Votes cast.......................................... 3,472,714
By contrast in this case, § 4 (b) on its face forecloses judicial review. No inference from the structure of the statute nor from its legislative history, cf. 358 U. S., at 191-201 (BRENNAN, J., dissenting), is necessary to make its meaning plain. And as we have noted, preclusion of review of § 4 (b) determinations does not wholly pretermit judicial action by the affected jurisdiction to terminate coverage.
The Court of Appeals also erred in relying on Thermtron Products, Inc. v. Hermansdorfer, 423 U.S. 336 (1976). At issue there was the authority of a court of appeals to grant mandamus relief against the improper remand to a state court of an action previously removed to federal court. A remand order is generally "not reviewable on appeal or otherwise." 28 U. S. C. § 1447 (d). We held, however, that review is not precluded if the order is based "`on grounds wholly different from those . . . which [the statute authorizing remand, 28 U. S. C.] § 1447 (c) permits.'" Gravitt v. Southwestern Bell Tel. Co., 430 U.S. 723, 724 (1977). Where the order is based on one of the enumerated grounds, review is unavailable no matter how plain the legal error in ordering the remand. Id., at 723.
While we express no opinion on the question whether § 4 (b) precludes review of coverage determinations based on criteria not specified in the statute, we note that in the present case, there is no question that the Attorney General and the Director of the Census relied solely upon the statutory grounds in finding Texas covered by the Act.