GOP to Fight Voting Bill 05/11 07:06
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans are preparing to launch an all-out assault on
sweeping voting rights legislation, forcing Democrats to take dozens of
politically difficult votes during a committee hearing that will spotlight the
increasingly charged national debate over access to the ballot.
The bill, as written, would bring about the largest overhaul of U.S.
elections in a generation, touching on almost every aspect of the electoral
process. Democrats say the changes are even more important now as
Republican-controlled states impose new voting restrictions after the divisive
Yet it's a motivating issue for Republicans, too, with GOP Senate leader
Mitch McConnell so determined to stop Democrats that he will personally argue
against the measure, a rare role for a party leader that shows the extent to
which Republicans are prepared to fight as a hearing for the bill begins
That's on top of scores of amendments Republicans will propose to highlight
aspects of the bill they believe are unpopular, including public financing for
congressional campaigns and an overhaul of the federal agency that polices
What's typically an hours-long legislative slog could drag into a dayslong
showdown in the Senate Rules Committee, as Democrats look to advance one of
their key priorities to a vote in the full Senate.
"It's a vast federal takeover of all American elections. It's a horrible
bill," McConnell said during an interview that aired last weekend on KET, a PBS
affiliate in his native Kentucky. "I'm going to do everything I can and my
colleagues are going to do everything we can to prevent it."
The action in Congress comes as states including Georgia, Florida, Arizona
and Texas are pushing new voting rules, spurred by former President Donald
Trump's false claims about election fraud after his 2020 loss.
Democrats are on defense, having been unable to halt the onslaught of new
state rules that will take months or years to litigate in court. That leaves
passage of legislation through Congress as one of the few remaining options to
counteract the GOP efforts.
Republicans argue the new state rules are needed to clamp down on mail
ballots and other methods that became popular during the pandemic, but critics
warn the states are seeking to reduce voter access, particularly for Black
voters, ushering in a new Jim Crow era for the 21st century.
There was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Trump's claims were
rejected by Republican and Democratic election officials in state after state,
by U.S. cybersecurity officials and by courts up to the U.S. Supreme Court. And
his attorney general at the time said there was no evidence of fraud that could
change the election outcome.
McConnell won't be the only high-profile figure at Tuesday's hearing.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is also expected to stop in at
the Rules panel meeting to add his weight to the debate.
On Monday he said the coming debate would test if Republicans are willing to
work on "improving out democracy" or whether they were more interested in "in
helping aiding and abetting" Trump's "big lie" about the 2020 election.
"Our Republican colleagues face a critical choice between working with
Democrats in good faith to pass a law to protect our democracy, or siding with
Republican state legislatures that are orchestrating the largest contraction of
voting rights in decades," Schumer said.
President Joe Biden has said the federal legislation would "restore the soul
of America" by giving everyone equal access to the vote.
The legislation, known as the For the People Act, was given top billing on
the Democratic agenda, but the path ahead is unclear. Despite the expected
showing from McConnell, who has cultivated a reputation for turning the Senate
into a legislative graveyard, moderate members of the Democratic caucus also
pose a sizable obstacle to the bill becoming law.
Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have both
said they oppose making changes to the Senate's filibuster rules, which would
be needed to maneuver the bill past Republican opposition and pass it with a
simple majority in a 50-50 Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris delivering
the tiebreaking 51st vote.
Manchin has called for any elections overhaul to be done on a bipartisan
basis. Other Democrats want to pare back the bill to core voting protections to
try to put Republicans on the spot.
House resolution H.R. 1, and its companion, S. 1, in the Senate have been in
the works for several years. As passed by the House in March, the legislation
would create automatic voter registration nationwide, require states to offer
15 days of early voting, require more disclosure from political donors and
restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, among other
changes. It would also compel states to offer no-excuse absentee voting.
In particular, it would force the disclosure of donors to "dark money"
political groups, which are a magnet for wealthy interests looking to influence
the political process while remaining anonymous.
McConnell has spent a career fighting for the free flow of campaign cash as
a constitutionally protected right to free speech.
One Republican aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the
situation without authorization said they are planning to try to strike full
sections of the bill and introduce other changes.
Democrats have been making their own changes to the bill to draw support.
Manchin has not yet signed on, and his backing will be crucial.
In the latest version of the legislation, states would have more time and
flexibility to put new federal rules in place. Some election officials had
complained of unrealistic timelines, increased costs and onerous requirements.
States would have more time to launch same-day voter registration at polling
places and to comply with new voting system requirements. They would also be
able to apply for an extension if they were unable to meet the deadline for
automatic voter registration. Officials have said these are complex processes
that require equipment changes or upgrades that will take time to get in place.
Democrats are also dropping a requirement that local election offices
provide self-sealing envelopes with mail ballots and cover the costs of return
postage. Instead, they plan to require the U.S. Postal Service to carry mail
ballots and ballot request forms free of charge, with the federal government
picking up the tab.
Manchin told reporters Monday that he hadn't yet reviewed the changes but
remained open to supporting the bill.
"We are looking at everything. We hope there's a pathway there," he said.