President Biden and most Senate Democrats want to make “voting rights” a hill to die on. They want to “carve out” the Senate filibuster rules to ram their current bill through. Biden is headed to Atlanta today to perform in support of the Senate version of the bill. In its Senate incarnation it is titled the “Freedom to Vote Act.”
Posing a question about the bill to Rep. James Clyburn on FOX News Sunday this past weekend, Bret Baier framed it this way (transcript here):
You know, you said in a podcast, Congressman, this week, that if you don’t get voting rights done, it will be the beginning of the end of democracy. You also wrote in a column this week about the January 6th attack on the Capitol, comparing it to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, writing, 80 years later, tyranny is threatening America again, this time from a domestic attack.
You know, Vice President Harris, obviously, had a similar construct with Pearl Harbor and 9/11. What do you say to families of World War II veterans who lost somebody at Pearl Harbor or 9/11 families, victims’ families who agree that January 6th was a very bad day and a dark day in our history, but that that comparison is not fair and seems to be being used to pitch voting rights legislation that was drawn up before January 6th?
Yeah, it’s a little over the top, but so is calling it “voting rights.” That is the fundamental issue.
The bill — S. 2747 — is sponsored by Minnesota’s own Amy Klobuchar. That’s enough for me to know that it seeks to advance an agenda other than “voting rights,” but I actually went to the trouble of reading it over the weekend. Byron York provides an accurate summary in his Examiner column “GOP pushes back on Democratic ‘Big Lie.’” Zachary Evans also provides a good summary in his NR story here.
Byron holds that the bill seeks to “federalize U.S. election procedures on terms favorable to Democrats,” which is exactly right, but I would put it slightly differently. It seeks to normalize and aggravate the anomalies adopted for the 2020 election.
Byron’s summary itemizes operative parts of the bill. It would throw out every state voter ID law in the country, would legalize ballot harvesting nationwide, would mandate universal mail-in ballots, would mandate nationwide same-day and automatic voter registration, would mandate nationwide acceptance of late-arriving mail-in ballots, would remake the campaign finance system, “and much, much more.” Under the “much more” category, see Brad Smith’s NR column “Democrats Propose a Federal Speech Czar.”
Why? “All this in the name of stopping voter ‘suppression’ that is not happening.”
Byron’s column also does us the favor of providing this preview of Biden’s program today and an accurate response to the Democrats’ agenda:
The Democratic push reaches a climax of sorts this week with the Biden-Harris trip to Georgia. The visit will be framed in terms of civil rights — remember, Biden referred to a number of Republican voting reforms in Georgia as “Jim Crow in the 21st century” and “Jim Crow 2.0.” The Atlanta visit will continue that theme. Biden and Harris will visit a historically black college and then “lay a wreath at the crypt of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and visit Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church,” according to a White House schedule of events. The Biden-Harris message: Don’t let racist Republicans take your rights away.
Now Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his GOP allies are pushing back. “The political left keeps pitching their Big Lie that mainstream state voting laws are somehow ‘Jim Crow 2.0’ if the governor who signs the bill happens to be a Republican,” McConnell said last week. “In one of the states that triggered this meltdown, the new proposals mandated more days of early voting than many Democrat-run states provide. Our democracy is not in crisis. Repeating this rhetoric does not make it factual. The 2020 election saw the highest turnout in more than 100 years.”
As for the filibuster, McConnell notes that just a few years ago, in 2017, 32 Senate Democrats — including then-Sen. Kamala Harris — signed a letter opposing changes in the legislative filibuster. And a decade before that, current Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vigorously resisted getting rid of the filibuster. “The ideologues in the Senate want to turn what the Founding Fathers called the cooling saucer of democracy into the rubber stamp of dictatorship,” Schumer said in 2005. “They believe if you get 51% of the vote, there should be one-party rule … They want to make this country into a banana republic where if you don’t get your way, you change the rules. It’ll be doomsday for democracy if we do.”
Given those statements and actions, it is no exaggeration to say that Schumer’s hypocrisy, when it comes to the legislative filibuster, is simply off the scale. (McConnell’s is not; when then-President Donald Trump urged majority Republican senators to get rid of the filibuster, McConnell said no.)
Why this new push? Democrats appear to be deeply frustrated by their inability to pass a huge spending bill and a far-reaching voting bill that would change voting procedures across the country (and is likely unconstitutional, at that) with their 50-vote non-majority in the Senate. Their ambitions have outstripped their power in the Senate for the last year. Now, the approach of midterm elections makes it even more difficult to get what they want done. So they are lashing out in a very familiar way — in a spasm of allegations of Republican racism. Look for more, not less, of that as the elections grow nearer.
Anybody who accepts the Democrats’ terms of the argument by reference to “voting rights” is a knowing or unknowing hack. By contrast with the Democrats’ spiel about “voting rights,” the McConnell critique of the Democrats’ bill has the advantage of truth.