CITY OF WASHINGTON (June 22, 2021)— Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnel (R-KY) delivered the following remarks on the Senate Floor regarding S.1 “For The People Act.” The bill will go through a trial vote today in the U.S. Senate. The bill is expected not to pass for these reasons:
Today “the Democratic Leader has indicated, the Senate will finally get the opportunity to vote on the bill that House and Senate Democrats have both made their number one priority for the entire Congress.
“S. 1 is a bad bill filled with bad ideas, and I’ve been crystal clear about opposing it from the very beginning.
“But for Democrats themselves, coming up with a compelling rationale for this unprecedented political power-grab has been a long and winding road.
“It started, of course, in 2019. Back then, our friends on the Left were still trying to wrap their heads around a stunning defeat in the 2016 presidential election. So the Speaker of the House billed H.R. 1 as a major overhaul for what her party concluded was a profoundly broken democracy.
“Then, 2020 changed everything. A Democrat had won the White House. I guess our democracy wasn’t broken, after all. This time, apparently, federal authorities just needed urgent protection from state legislatures running their own elections.
“We’re talking about fundamentally the same bill. And one thing’s for certain: ‘major overhaul’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.
“The same awful guts are all in there:
“There’s the plan to forcibly rewrite large portions of the 50 states’ respective election laws…
“And the plan to create new publicly-funded accounts. Not for building roads and bridges, expanding rural broadband, or fighting the opioid epidemic.
“Just piles of federal dollars going to yard signs, balloons, and TV ads for candidates at least half of Americans disagree with.
“There’s the plan to trash a decades-old bipartisan consensus on the right way to call balls and strikes on elections and turn the even split of the Federal Election Commission into a partisan majority.
“And the one to give that majority new and broader tools for chilling the rights of citizens to engage in political speech it doesn’t like.
“It’s such a radical proposal that even prominent voices on the left have urged caution.
“Lawyers from the ACLU, no less, have sounded the alarm on its proposed encroachment on free speech.
“One liberal expert went even further, saying that if Democrats think their bill is, quote, ‘essential to secure democracy, they are self-deceived or deceitful.’
“And voters themselves are hardly convinced. When asked about election policies like voter I.D., large majorities consistently come down on the opposite side of Washington Democrats.
“And the bill is so transparently opportunistic, Democrats’ spin has failed to even unite their own majority here in the Senate.
“It’s a massive takeover of our electoral system with a fill-in-the-blank rationale.
“Nobody is fooled. And next week, the Senate will reject it.”
“The far-reaching proposal, at nearly 900 pages, is viewed by backers as the civil rights issue of the era, legislation that is suddenly of the highest priority after the 2020 election as states impose restrictive new laws that could make it more difficult to vote. In the evenly split Senate, Republicans are united in opposition, seeing the bill as federal overreach and denying Democrats the 60 votes that would be needed to overcome the filibuster and begin debate,” AP News wrote.
Manchin proposed his own changes last week as he tried to trim back some areas and expand others, adding provisions for a national voter ID requirement, which is anathema to many Democrats, and dropping a proposed public financing of campaigns.
The proposed Manchin changes were largely well received, welcomed by Biden’s administration as a “step forward,” while earning the nod of approval from one of the party’s key voting rights advocates, former Georgia governor’s race candidate Stacey Abrams.
It did little, however, to garner the bipartisan support Manchin was hoping for. Senate Republicans said they would likely reject any legislation that expands the federal government’s role in elections.
“I keep thinking there’s a few who want to,” Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., who authored the legislation in the Senate, said during a conference call Monday night with the group Our Revolution. “But when McConnell lowered the boom,” he continued, “we couldn’t get a single Republican to join us.”
The rock-solid opposition from the GOP senators brings to a head questions over the filibuster, the decades-old Senate rule that requires 60 votes for most bills to advance.
While some Democrats want to change the Senate’s rules to push the elections bill and other priorities past the filibuster, Manchin and others including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., are opposed to taking that next move. Biden, too, has said in the past that he wants to leave the filibuster intact.
“The filibuster compels moderation and helps protect the country from wild swings,” Sinema wrote Monday in an opinion piece for The Washington Post. She welcomed a full debate “so senators and our constituents can hear and fully consider the concerns and consequences.”
Pressure to change the rule is mounting, though. For now, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration’s hope is that the chamber’s 50 Democrats are aligned and that an unsuccessful vote will prompt the search for a new path.
Source: Senator Mitch McConnell and AP News contributed to the article.