McConnell in attack-dog mode on House Democrats first big bill

It’s not fair to say the Senate is doing nothing under Mitch McConnell other than confirming judges.

The Republican Senate Majority Leader has devoted much of his time lately to fashioning talking points to attack the Democrats’ top piece of legislation in the House, a wide-ranging bill dealing with reforms to campaign finance, ethics and voting rights.

McConnell gave seven floor speeches in the Senate in the weeks leading up to the vote in the House on Thursday. And before House Democrats even brought their first major bill of the new Congress to the House floor for a final vote on Thursday, McConnell strode to the Senate floor once again to denounce it, even though he has promised he won’t ever allow it for even a vote in the upper chamber.

“Anyone who's been observing the floor of the Senate would have noticed how vociferously our Republican leader opposes HR1,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said from the Senate floor Thursday morning, referring to the For the People Act.

Why all this energy for a bill that won’t be going anywhere in this Congress?

It appears that McConnell’s passion for the House bill is due to the fact that the Democrats’ bill campaign finance sections deal with a number of issues that have long animated him: the debate over dark money, government oversight and control of election ads and spending, and public financing of campaigns.

“This is an issue that I’ve dealt with for decades,” McConnell told reporters Wednesday. One former top aide to McConnell said he feels it is his duty to be the Republican Party’s attack dog on these issues.

“He hates campaign finance reform more than anything,” said one top House Democrat leadership aide.

22 PHOTOS
Mitch McConnell through the years
See Gallery
Mitch McConnell through the years

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), left, talked with United States Enrichment Corp. General Manager Howard Pulley during a media tour of the uranium-enrichment Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in the plant's Central Control Facility (C-300) on Thursday, Aug. 12, 1999 near Paducah, Ky. A sealed federal lawsuit filed in June by the Natural Resources Defense Council and three plant employees alleges that thousands of unsuspecting workers were exposed to dust containing plutonium and other radioactive metals.

(Photo by Billy Suratt)

Senator Mitch McConnell (L) discusses Republican tax cuts as Sen. Patrick Moynihan looks on during NBC's ''Meet the Press'' August 1, 1999 in Washington, DC.

(photo by Richard Ellis)

Senator Christopher Dodd, left, and Senator Mitch McConnell punch the 'first nails' into a piece of wood during a nail-driving ceremony December 6, 2000 on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. Both senators participated in the ceremony to signify the beginning of construction of the 2001 Inaugural platform on the West Front Terrace of the U.S. Capitol.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Newsmakers)

Mitch McConnell R-Ky. holds a press conference on campaign finance reform.

(Photo by Douglas Graham/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

United States President George W. Bush signs nominations for 13 cabinet members in a ceremony in the President's Room in the Capitol Building, in Washington January 20, 2001. From left to right are Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, (R-Ms), Vice-President Richard Cheney, Senator Strom Thurmond, (R-SC) and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Il).

(STR New / Reuters)

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks to reporters after a news conference on his campaign finance bill.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduces his wife Labor Secretary Elaine Chao on the third day of the Republican National Convention in New York, September 1, 2004.

(Photo by Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, left, speaks with Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., after the Senate Luncheons.

(Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) (C) and Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) smile at a joint news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington July 28, 2005.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas YG/TZ)

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (C), flanked by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) (L-R), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senator John Thune (R-SD), talks to reporters about the senate's passage of debt ceiling legislation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, August 2, 2011. Congress buried the specter of a debt default by finally passing a deficit-cutting package on Tuesday, but the shadow lingered of a possible painful downgrade of the top-notch American credit rating.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to his office at the Capitol in Washington December 17, 2011. The U.S. Senate on Saturday passed a $915 billion bill to fund most federal agency activities through next September and avert a government shutdown.

(REUTERS/Benjamin Myers)

Incoming U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (C) (R-TN) attends a meeting with Republican leadership, Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (L) (R-KY) and GOP conference chairman, Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) on Capitol Hill January 6, 2003 in Washington, DC. Frist was voted in as majority leader by his colleagues when former majority leader, Trent Lott, stepped down last month.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaking, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., during a news conference on Miguel A. Estrada's withdrawal of his nomination to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. From CQToday: In numerous news conferences and floor speeches throughout the day, Republicans castigated Democrats for 'obstructing' the nominations of Estrada and other judicial candidates; most Democrats said they were blocking an up-or-down vote on the nomination as part of their bid for memos and other work papers from Estrada's time in the Clinton administration's Office of the Solicitor General.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks about the stimulus package on February 2, 2009 in Washington, DC. Republicans are criticizing the Democrat's near trillion dollar stimulus package and are asking for revisions before the Senate votes later in the week.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

US Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY, is sworn in by Vice President Dick Cheney (R) as his wife Labor Secretary Elaine Chao holds the Bible during a swearing in reenactment ceremony at the US Capitol on January 6, 2009 in Washington, DC.

(KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence (R) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wave as they walk before their meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 30, 2016.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

US House Minority Leader John Boehner (L)R-OH and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) make remarks to the press outside the West Wing after their meeting with President Barack Obama on January 23, 2009 at the White House in Washington, DC.

(TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (C) waves goodbye to reporters after a news conference with (L-R) Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. John Barrasso (R0WY) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) after the weekly Senate Republican Caucus policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol May 8, 2012 in Washington, DC. Despite the Senate voting against opening debate on a bill to keep interest rates on federal Stafford loans from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2012, McConnell said that both the GOP and Democrats agree on keeping rates down but need to find a way to pay for it.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., makes his way to the senate luncheons in the Capitol.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

From left, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, attend a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in the Capitol's rotunda, June 24, 2014.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell testifies along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (not pictured) during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on 'Examining a Constitutional Amendment to Restore Democracy to the American People,' focusing on campaign finance on Tuesday, June 3, 2014.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks about the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election in Washington, U.S., November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

But McConnell has also taken aim at the Democratic arguments about voting rights, laying out the case for a rebuttal of Democratic claims that voter suppression is a growing problem since the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013. The Shelby decision weakened the 1965 Voting Rights Act by declaring outdated the guidelines that triggered Justice Department oversight of states and counties with histories of racial discrimination, largely against African-Americans.

In fact, McConnell has made one of the most robust arguments in American politics to date to push back against growing claims that Republicans in certain states have been intentionally suppressing the vote with increasing success since 2013. This case has been building for a few years, helped by things like a court decision in North Carolina that found the state legislature there crafted a voter ID law in 2013 — the same year Shelby was decided — that targeted African-American voters with “surgical precision.”

Then, in 2018, elections in Georgia and South Dakota offered new evidence for Democratic arguments that Republican state officials were using legal means to make it harder for minorities to vote, usually in the name of preventing voter fraud.

McConnell’s Feb. 7 floor speech was his most thorough argument against the Democratic narrative.

“If you only listened to Democrats, you might actually think that there is a widespread voting crisis in this country,” McConnell said. He argued that “2018 saw the highest midterm turnout rate in half a century” and that “2016 hit an all-time record for presidential ballots cast and the third-highest presidential turnout rate in 50 years.”

McConnell praised what he called “the freedom, openness, and availability of the electoral franchise across our country in the year 2019” and said that “the procedures [Democrats are] trying to attack actually could not be more reasonable.”

McConnell’s arguments against the voter suppression narrative are of interest in part because while HR1 does have some provisions related to the issue — creating automatic voter registration, making Election Day a national holiday, and mandating redistricting rules — it is in many ways a prelude to a bigger bill on the issue that will come later this year: HR4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act.

That bill will actually seek to address the issues dealt with in Shelby, particularly the issue of updating formulas for triggering federal oversight of elections.

Nonetheless, McConnell has grounded his argument against HR1’s voting rights provisions in the constitutional argument that Article 1, Section VI gives state governments “primary responsibility” for the conducting of elections.

He acknowledged that the federal government has needed to intervene in the past during the Civil Rights movement. And in fact elections are not automatically fairer and more open simply because they are supervised by state and local officials, as McConnell and other Republicans have argued during the current debate over HR1.

McConnell dismissed the notion that racial discrimination by legal means is occurring in modern times. “What is the alleged crisis now?” he asked.

This assertion is at the heart of the legislation, and current debates.

Stacey Abrams, the former House Democratic leader in the Georgia legislature who lost a close election for governor in that state last year, has become a leading spokeswoman for the issue of voting rights. Last week she told a field hearing held by the House Administration Committee in Atlanta that Republicans in Georgia and elsewhere have often managed to use seemingly incidental ineptitude as a front for intentional suppression of the vote.

“Incompetence and malfeasance operate in tandem, and the sheer complexity of the state’s voting apparatus smooths voter suppression into a nearly seamless system that targets voter registration, ballot access and ballot counting,” Abrams said.

12 PHOTOS
Stacey Abrams, Georgia's first-ever black female gubernatorial candidate
See Gallery
Stacey Abrams, Georgia's first-ever black female gubernatorial candidate
Stacey Abrams, running for the Democratic primary for Georgia's 2018 governor's race, speaks at a Young Democrats of Cobb County meeting as she campaigns in Cobb County, Georgia, U.S. on November 16, 2017. Picture taken on November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
Stacey Abrams, running for the Democratic primary for Georgia's 2018 governor's race, speaks at a Young Democrats of Cobb County meeting as she campaigns in Cobb County, Georgia, U.S. on November 16, 2017. Picture taken on November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
ATLANTA, GA - MAY 22: Supporters of Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, cheer during a primary election night event on May 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. If elected, Abrams would become the first African American female governor in the nation. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MAY 22: Stefanie Roberts (left) and Tonetta Collins, Spelman College friends of Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, cheer during a primary election night event on May 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. If elected, Abrams would become the first African American female governor in the nation. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 25: House Minority Leader for the Georgia General Assembly and State Representative, Stacey Abrams delivers a speech on the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 27: House Minority Leader for the Georgia General Assembly, Stacey Abrams speaks onstage at EMILY's List Breaking Through 2016 at the Democratic National Convention at Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts on July 27, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images For EMILY's List)
Representative Stacey Abrams, a Democrat from Georgia, speaks during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Monday, July 25, 2016. The Democratic National Committee gloated as Republicans struggled to project unity during the party's national convention, but they are now facing a similar problem after their leader resigned on the eve of their own gathering. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
ATLANTA, GA - MAY 22: Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams takes the stage to declare victory in the primary during an election night event on May 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. If elected, Abrams would become the first African American female governor in the nation. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 03: Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams attends EMILY's List 30th Anniversary Gala at Washington Hilton on March 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for EMILY's List)
ATLANTA, GA - MAY 22: Supporter Nina Durham is adorned with political pins during the primary election night event for Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on May 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. Abrams is running against former state representative Stacey Evans. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MAY 22: Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams takes the stage to declare victory in the primary during an election night event on May 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. If elected, Abrams would become the first African American female governor in the nation. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MAY 22: Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams takes the stage to declare victory in the primary during an election night event on May 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. If elected, Abrams would become the first African American female governor in the nation. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Yet voter suppression is fraught with both racial and partisan divisions. And in such an environment, inaccurate claims only further muddy the waters, as happened last weekend, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made inaccurate claims about voter suppression in the 2016 presidential election. Her claims were then given “Four Pinocchios” by the Washington Post fact-checker.

This week, McConnell has focused his fire on several parts of HR1, including the lack of any mention of ballot harvesting by Democrats. Ballot harvesting is the tactic used by a Republican operative in North Carolina last fall to commit election fraud in the 9th Congressional district, which has resulted in the results being disallowed and a new election set for Sept. 10.

McConnell said Wednesday that Democrats should have made it illegal for voters to entrust anyone to deliver an absentee ballot, and alleged essentially that Democrats in California – where it is legal – had used the tactic in the same way that North Carolina Republicans did.

“It is widely thought ballot harvesting is the reason there are only seven Republicans left in the delegation from California,” McConnell said Wednesday. He called “ballot harvesting” an “obvious example of voter fraud.”

But Thomas Umberg, a California state senator, involved in the issue of “third party vote by mail returns” called McConnell’s claims “ludicrous.”

“There is credible evidence that there was an organized effort to illegally mark ballots in North Carolina and at least one arrest has already been made in the case,” wrote Umberg, who is chair of the California state Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments.” No such evidence or credible accusations have occurred here in California – only sour grapes by people unhappy with the results of an election conducted with integrity.”

_____

Read more from YahooNews:

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.