In a rare public appearance outside the White House last Tuesday, President Biden delivered an animated, if confused, speech criticizing so-called “anti-voting” laws currently making their way through several Republican-controlled state legislatures. The recent flurry of bombastic rhetoric on “voting rights” from Joe Biden and his Democrat allies has come as left-wing attempts to federalize elections and strip states of their ability to enact election integrity measures have been blocked by Republicans and the few remaining moderate Democrats in the Senate.
Despite the fact that more Americans voted in 2020 than ever before – and that Democrats took control of the Senate and the White House – Joe Biden claimed in his remarks that “we are facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War.”
Notably, however, Biden’s speech was lacking in many specifics about how Republican “voter suppression” bills actually suppress votes. Biden instead resorted to broad, largely baseless claims about Republican-sponsored legislation, asserting the existence of a nebulous existential threat to democracy that he, or any other Democrat for that matter, has been unable to explicitly define. Perhaps most telling of all, Biden was unable to explain how either of Democrats’ two voting bills, the “For the People Act” and the “John Lewis Voting Rights Act,” would do anything to actually rectify the supposed ailments plaguing our democracy.
Conservatives have also rightly pointed out that Biden’s speech this week, along with his repeated attacks on election security laws passed by Republican state legislatures, are a blatant attack on the sovereignty of state governments and the principle of federalism that underpins our system of government. The Constitution specifically and purposely outlines that the states, not the federal government, have control over their own election laws. The federal takeover of elections contemplated by the Democrat legislation is brazenly unconstitutional.
Unfortunately, Democrat legislators in several states have been more than happy to indulge federal encroachment on state election systems. As Joe Biden delivered his demagogic speech, Democrats from Texas were shaking hands and taking selfies in Washington, D.C. after having fled the state in a last-ditch effort to prevent the Republican-controlled legislature from passing new voter security measures.
Democrats have good reason to be concerned about their mission to rewrite election laws. Their flagship voting bill, the For the People Act, known alternatively as H.R. 1 and S. 1, effectively died on the Senate floor late last month after failing to gain the 60 votes necessary to proceed to floor debate. As AMAC Newsline has previously reported, while H.R. 1 faced opposition from Republicans and many state election officials from the beginning, the writing was on the wall once Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) publicly announced that he would vote against the bill.
But as Joe Biden showed on Tuesday, Republicans should not assume that they’ve seen the last of H.R. 1 . Despite the apparent defeat of the bill, Biden nonetheless insisted that the Senate “must pass the For the People Act” as a “national imperative,” suggesting that Democrats could introduce further iterations of the legislation at some point before the midterm elections next year.
Thus far, Democrats’ other liberal wish list, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, also known as H.R. 4, has not fared much better than H.R. 1. Although the John Lewis Act lacks some of the dangerous provisions found in the For the People Act, such as universal mail-in voting, mandatory ballot harvesting, and an outright ban on voter ID requirements the basic purpose of the law, namely placing elections almost entirely under control of the federal government, remains the same.
Among other things, H.R. 4 would require most changes to state or local election laws to undergo an onerous process known as “preclearance,” where the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has final say over all state election laws. Republicans have voiced concerns that, in practice, universal preclearance requirements would allow the highly politicized Department of Justice to unilaterally strike down any and all Republican-sponsored election laws in order to secure Democratic majorities in future elections. Now that H.R. 1 has failed, or at least taken a major hit, H.R. 4 will likely become the next vehicle through which Democrats hope to pass their voting reforms.
For now, the John Lewis Act has not yet been brought forward for a vote this Congress, as House Democrats have been unable to draft a version of the bill that they believe will pass constitutional muster. But Joe Manchin has already announced that he supports the legislation, and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska supported the version of the bill that passed the House in 2019, meaning that Republicans could be in for a fight if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi makes H.R. 4 a priority after the August recess.
Republicans also remain concerned that Democrats are attempting to insert dramatic overhauls to election law as seemingly innocuous provisions in other legislation, thereby passing the same policies in piecemeal fashion. For example, the DISCLOSE Act and the Honest Ads Act, both sponsored by Democrats, contain many of the provisions included in H.R. 1 that would force nonprofit groups and political organizations to reveal the identity of their donors, potentially subjecting them to harassment from liberal activists and violating free speech protections.
Additionally, while Joe Manchin was the hero of the moment for opposing H.R. 1, he indicated that he is amenable to a slightly altered version of the bill that seemingly includes many of the same sweeping changes outlined in the original text, just with a few minor concessions to Republicans. Unsurprisingly, voices on both sides of the debate were quick to recognize that Manchin’s supposed “compromise” is little more than lip service to actual bipartisan legislation: the New York Times assured its liberal readership that Manchin’s proposal “resembles H.R. 1 in crucial ways,” while Senator Roy Blount (R-MO), dismissed it as a “Stacey Abrams” proposal.
So far, Republicans have managed to hold the line in stopping Democrat attempts to federalize elections. But as the 2022 midterms approach and fears of a Republican sweep mount, Democrats are only growing more vocal and determined to pass legislation that may help them undermine elections and preserve their majority next November.
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