Senate Democrats probably aren’t going to get the 60 votes they need to pass sweeping legislation designed to federalize election control and help Democrats win.
Absent the “nuclear option” — in which the filibuster is bulldozed and the legislation is passed along a straight party-line vote in the 50-50 Senate — the best Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s party can hope to do is attack the Republicans mercilessly.
At least by that standard, the majority leader is succeeding wildly.
In a speech filled with ad hominem attacks, Schumer assailed voter integrity laws as “infuriating,” called Republican opposition to the bill fear of democracy, compared election integrity laws to Jim Crow legislation and threatened to “amend the Constitution” to get Democrats’ way.
The speech came as the divisive S 1 — a naked power-grab with the Orwellian name the For the People Act — came to the Senate floor for a debate. The bill would, among other things, eliminate voter ID laws and the ability for states to decide to set their own congressional districts. It would require states to register all eligible individuals who receive services or benefits from the government to vote, including college students. It would allow massive public funding of candidates and enact key changes to states’ abilities to manage their voter rolls, the Heritage Foundation noted.
It would eliminate bans on ballot harvesting ban, allowing Americans the right to “designate any person” to return an absentee ballot, given the person “does not receive any form of compensation based on the number of ballots,” according to The Wall Street Journal. States “may not put any limit on how many voted and sealed absentee ballots any designated person can return,” as well.
All of these measures aren’t democratic, they’re Democratic with an upper-case D.
What a shock — every single item in this bill works out felicitously for the party proposing it!
And if Republicans don’t pass it, Schumer said in an inflammatory Senate Rules Committee hearing on Wednesday, they deserve “shame, shame, shame.”
This apparently isn’t a man who watched “Game of Thrones” and realizes the negative connection people might have made between those words and an infamous scene from that show dealing with how the mob, giddy with power suddenly seized, can use the moment for ugly revenge.
Even if he realized it, it’s doubtful it would matter, since Schumer is generally a man without shame. And while S 1 is a piece of legislation that has brought forth some heated reactions on both sides of the aisle — Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee called it “a bill as if written in hell by the devil himself” — the New York senator managed to set a new record in febrility with his remarks.
In one particularly ugly moment, Schumer described attempts to increase election integrity, such as voter ID requirements and limits on absentee voting, as “a concerted, nationwide effort to limit the right of American citizens to vote and to truly have a voice in their own government,” according to a transcript on the Democratic Party’s Senate page.
“In the wake of the November elections — one of the safest in recent history — Republican-led state legislatures have seized on the former president’s ‘big lie’ that the election was stolen and introduced more than 250 bills in 43 states aimed at tightening voting rules under the guise, the guise of ‘election integrity,'” Schumer said.
“Instead of doing what you should be doing when you lose an election in a democracy, attempting to win over those voters in the next election, Republicans instead are trying to disenfranchise those voters. Shame on them.”
And then, of course, we got into the specter of Jim Crow and segregation.
“This is infuriating. I would like to ask my Republican colleagues: Why are you so afraid of democracy? Why, instead of trying to win voters over that you lost in the last election, are you trying to prevent them from voting?” Schumer said.
“Our country has come a long way, supposedly, since African-Americans in the South were forced to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar in order to vote. But some of these voter suppression laws in Georgia and other Republican states smack of Jim Crow, rearing its ugly head once again,” he said. “It is 160 years since the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments abolish slavery and Jim Crow still seems to be with us.”
The “shame, shame, shame” remarks came twice.
The first instance involved Schumer seizing upon individual bills in certain states that haven’t passed — nor necessarily have much of a chance of passing — as an argument for S 1’s necessity.
“In Arizona, no fewer than 22 separate measures to limit voting rights have been introduced, including a bill to require every absentee ballot to be notarized,” Schumer said.
“How are poor people going to pay for a notary? When there’s virtually no indication of fraud. That is one of the most despicable things I have seen in all my years. Shame, shame, shame.”
That bill, introduced by Arizona state Rep. Kevin Payne, hasn’t moved with any alacrity through the state legislature, having been read twice in January and seen no action since then. Aside from Payne, it has no other sponsors, which doesn’t bode well for the bill’s success.
As for the cost, the Arizona Daily Star reported in January that Payne might support a taxpayer subsidy for the notaries. The report said “he remains open to suggestions” on that aspect.
Generally speaking, you’d need to know none of this. Payne’s legislation generated a few stories in the immediate aftermath of its introduction and … that’s it.
Chuck Schumer knows this, and yet he’s using his “shame, shame, shame” rhetoric on Republicans who won’t pass sweeping national legislation that just happens to favor Democrats in every aspect because of the possibility Payne’s inchoate bill — he admits that “he remains open to suggestions,” which doesn’t suggest crisp, exact, finalized legislation ready to zoom through the legislature — might eventually move forward in Arizona.
The Democrat is using this singular bill with no other sponsors to tar every piece of election integrity legislation designed to ensure the electoral circus of 2020, in which states often knowingly broke their own laws and remade the electoral system because of pandemic exigencies, doesn’t happen again. Where’s the shame, majority leader?
The second time came as he suggested leaving election laws to the states was, again, equivalent to Jim Crow.
“We’ve been down this road before. Opponents of voting rights throughout history have always said, ‘Leave it to the states.’ Just leave it to the states to discriminate against African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, younger Americans in college,” Schumer said.
“It is shameful. Our Republican colleagues are proposing these ideas in 2020, the same kinds of states’ rights arguments that have been used from time immemorial to prevent certain people from voting. Shame, shame, shame.
“This is not a usual political argument. This goes to the core of our democracy.”
And if this isn’t enough, the majority leader closed by saying we might need a constitutional amendment.
“Voting rights are sacrosanct. They must be inviolable,” Schumer said. “And if Congress has to pass a law or amend the Constitution to protect the voting rights of our citizens, that’s what we should do. That’s what we must do. That’s what our democracy requires we do.”
Of course, if the Democrats aren’t willing to shred the filibuster, all of this is just that: an empurpled lecture, a long ad hominem smear that equates election integrity with Jim Crow laws.
Sadly, there’s the possibility this does end up passing with the “nuclear option.” Axios reported Monday that Biden, in a White House conversation that included historians, expressed his desire “to go even bigger and faster than anyone expected. If that means chucking the filibuster and bipartisanship, so be it.”
Whether Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia or Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona go along with this (they’ve pledged to keep the filibuster) remains to be seen, but what’s clear is the White House and Democrats could be about to embark on an all-out pressure campaign to get legislation such as this toxic “election reform” bill through.
As for a constitutional amendment, I wish Schumer and the Democrats the best of luck. That requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures; Democrats could admit Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; Guam; American Samoa; the Northern Mariana Islands; Canada; El Salvador; and Western Sahara as states and they still wouldn’t get this.
The grim fact Schumer was even willing to make the threat, however, is frightening enough in itself.
Republicans understand what this is: Democrats federalizing elections solely for their advantage and calling the GOP racists for opposing it.
Shame, shame, shame? That’s all on their side.
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