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Voting rights groups and Democratic lawmakers looked on in alarm Wednesday as Republican leaders broadcast open hostility toward policies that would curb corruption and make it easier for Americans to vote.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) mocked a provision in the For the People Act (H.R. 1) that would make Election Day a federal holiday, calling it a “power grab” that would allow federal workers to have a day off to campaign for Democrats.
“Just what America needs, another paid holiday and a bunch of government workers being paid to go out and work for I assume our folks—our colleagues on the other side, on their campaigns,” McConnell said.
The government watchdog group Public Citizen was among those to swiftly condemn the Senate Majority Leader’s bizarre comments:
The group was hardly alone in noting what McConnell’s reaction to the set of pro-democracy policies signifies:
“Voting isn’t a ‘power grab,'” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) tweeted. “It’s democracy, and it’s literally the entire point of our representative government. And by the way: Not only should Election Day be a federal holiday, we need automatic voter registration and universal mail voting, too.”
“When you insist that a bill designed to support voting rights for everyone, shine a light on billionaire donors, crack down on lobbyists’ influence, and protect our elections from foreign interference would just help Democrats, that’s a pretty big tell.” —Kevin M. Kruse, historianAlong with making participatory democracy possible for millions of Americans who aren’t able to get to take time off work to get to the polls, H.R. 1 would strengthen ethics and financial disclosure rules, establish automatic and same-day voter registration as well as early voting across the country, and enact gerrymandering reform to mend the damage done by years of partisan and racial re-districting to benefit Republicans.
“The title of the legislation itself—the For the People Act—is a good reminder of who democracy is here to serve: the people,” said Craig Holman of Public Citizen on Tuesday as the first hearing on H.R. 1 got underway. “Lawmakers have a chance to show the American people that America truly cares about transformational and comprehensive pro-democracy reforms by ensuring election access, restoring voting rights, reforming ethics laws, and protecting the integrity of our elections.”
But Republicans made clear this week that any reforms which benefit voters will seriously endanger their control over the U.S. government. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) joined in McConnell’s fearmongering over the bill on Twitter, expressing suspicion over a provision that would pre-register 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds. Jordan suggested that the measure—already in effect in 13 states and Washington, D.C.—is a ploy to allow people to vote before they’re legally allowed to.
“When you insist that a bill designed to support voting rights for everyone, shine a light on billionaire donors, crack down on lobbyists’ influence, and protect our elections from foreign interference would just help Democrats, that’s a pretty big tell,” historian Kevin M. Kruse wrote of the GOP’s rhetoric.