McConnell Previews House Vote on Democrat Politician Protection Act

‘Running roughshod over states’ and communities’ control of elections. Regulating and chilling the American people’s exercise of the First Amendment. Forcing taxpayers to indirectly donate to the politicians they don’t like. And a dozen other bad ideas to boot. Behold, the signature legislation of the new House Democrat majority.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the Democrat Politician Protection Act:

“This week, the House will be devoting floor time to the Democrat Politician Protection Act. That’s what I call the signature effort that Speaker Pelosi has given top billing as ‘H.R. 1.’ Because this new House Democrat majority’s top priority is apparently assigning themselves an unprecedented level of control over how they get elected to Washington D.C., along with how, where, and what American citizens are allowed to say about it. That’s priority number one, over there across the Capitol. More than anything else, Washington Democrats want a tighter grip on political debate and the operation of elections, nationwide.

“But, the Democrat Politician Protection Act is just part of the trio of massive, unprecedented government takeover schemes that Democrats have already rolled out this Congress. On its face, this proposal might seem less outrageous than Medicare for None or the so-called ‘Green New Deal.’ It wouldn’t seem to impact middle-class families as directly as making private health insurance plans illegal, or sending the U.S. economy on a nosedive in the name of tackling carbon emissions while China goes roaring on by. But here’s the thing. Those two proposals are just terrible policy. Bad policy can be stopped or undone through the political process. But H.R. 1 isn’t just terrible policy. It’s an attempt to rewrite the underlying rules of that political process itself and skew those rules to benefit just one side.

“By every indication, the Democrat Politician Protection Act is a massive partisan ‘solution’ in search of a problem. Democrats want to convince everyone that our republic is in crisis. But when you scratch the surface of these scare tactics, their two main complaints seem to be that Democrats don’t win enough elections and people Democrats don’t like also happen to have First Amendment rights. Just look at the data. In 2016, turnout reached its third highest rate since the 1960s. By the sheer number of presidential ballots cast, an all-time record was set. And these numbers were hardly a fluke. Last November, the midterm turnout rate set a new, 50-year record, too.

“Nevertheless, the Democrats are intent on fixing our elections, even though they aren’t broken. Their solution amounts to a hostile one-sided takeover of the electoral process without the input of both parties. In the Democrats’ view, our federalist system where state laws evolve to address unique challenges is old-fashioned and no longer to their liking. Now, it’s time for sweeping new decrees from Washington D.C. What each state has found works best for them -- to register voters, or to maintain voter rolls – all that is now supposed to yield to what Washington Democrats want.

“It starts with a massive influx of government data to the registration rolls. In one sweep, all of the duplicative and conflicting data from across state and federal government agencies -- as well as colleges and universities -- would flood the voter registration system. This isn’t the slightly-tested automatic voter registration some states have installed with their DMV. This is a massive data dump that is sure to invite risks of inaccuracy and a loss of privacy. It’s especially concerning as the Democrats want to mandate that agencies register 16- and 17-year olds.

“Or what about things like one-size-fits-all online voter registration, where the simple safeguard of signing a document can be easily sidestepped? Or a mandatory new one-stop registration and voting procedure in every state, without the assurance of verifying the voter’s identity or address before adding their ballot to the ballot box? If your state requires even the loosest Voter ID requirement, the Democrats’ bill would undermine it. Everything down to the type of paper your ballot is printed on is dictated by Washington Democrats under this proposal. The list goes on and on.

“Now, you might think that with Democrats insisting that every locality subscribe to ever-looser registration standards, they must at least provide strong tools for verifying and maintaining those voter rolls. Think again. In fact, they seem more focused on taking away those safeguards. The bill leaves states with less ability to maintain voter records and ensure people aren’t registered in multiple states. In many instances it seems Democrats want more identification required to correct an erroneous voter entry than to register new voters.

“What if we look at the problems that actually exist? What about the murky ‘ballot harvesting’ process that invites misbehavior? It was already illegal in North Carolina, where a congressional election result was thrown out due to fraud. But the practice remains perfectly legal in places like California, where it seems to benefit Democrat politicians. And somehow, for all the other top-down changes that H.R. 1 would force on the country, addressing ballot harvesting didn’t make the cut. Imagine that. It’s almost like Democrats’ purpose here is not promoting integrity, but rather preserving the chaos that make close elections ripe targets for their D.C. lawyers to contest. The law itself suggests as much, by creating new private rights of action for trial lawyers to ramp up litigation when they are unhappy with an outcome.

“Now, as I mentioned, elections aren’t the only focus. Democrats are also coming after Americans’ political speech. Under H.R. 1, a newly-partisan FEC would be empowered with sweeping new authority to regulate speech that is deemed to be ‘campaign-related.’ New rules applied to the mere mention of a politician’s name, new limitations on advocacy groups’ ability to speak on substantive issue, and strict new penalties for when private groups of citizens cross the lines Washington Democrats have drawn. But it doesn’t stop there. Protecting Democrat politicians is hard work, and it requires a multi-pronged approach.

“So not only does H.R. 1 deploy stricter regulations on political speech -- it also ramps up requirements when private citizens engage in it. Even small expressions of First Amendment rights could require extensive documentation. And in many new cases, forced public disclosure of your private activities would be required. We are in a dangerous climate for the robust exchange of ideas. There is outright government bias like we saw from Lois Lerner’s IRS. There are activist-driven online mobs that come after individuals’ reputations and livelihoods. This is not a climate where the people’s representatives should be rushing to make more of Americans’ private information public.

“The ACLU is not often an organization that would be described as bipartisan. But here’s what the ACLU wrote in a letter to House Democrats just a few days ago: Quote: ‘[T]here are … provisions that unconstitutionally impinge on the free speech rights of American citizens and public interest organizations… [it] strikes the wrong balance between the public’s interest in knowing who supports or opposes candidates for office and the vital associational privacy rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.’ They go on: ‘[H.R. 1] interferes with that ability by impinging on the privacy of donors to these groups, forcing the groups to make a choice: their speech or their donors. Whichever they choose, the First Amendment loses.’

“This is the very issue that the NAACP had to sue the State of Alabama over way back in the 1950s. They won a critical victory when the Supreme Court confirmed that the First Amendment is eroded when Big Brother forces private organizations to publicize the people who work to support them. It was true in the 1950s and it is true today. But that erosion is exactly what House Democrats want to achieve.  And their bill even supports a Constitutional amendment to take away First Amendment protections. And even if their proposal does chill the exercise of the First Amendment -- fear not, House Democrats have a plan to make sure there’s still plenty of activity come election season.

“It’s a taxpayer-funded stimulus package for campaign consultants and political candidates. Democrats want to sign taxpayers up for a six-times matching subsidy for certain political contributions. It could total about $5 million dollars in taxpayer money for every candidate that wants it. Right into the pockets of political campaigns. Middle-class Americans would have the privilege of watching television commercials attacking their own beliefs and the candidates they support and knowing their own tax dollars bought that airtime.

“All of this is what House Democrats are debating on the floor this week. All of this and more. I’ve only scratched the surface of the Democrat Politician Protection Act. Running roughshod over states’ and communities’ control of elections. Regulating and chilling the American people’s exercise of the First Amendment. Forcing taxpayers to indirectly donate to the politicians they don’t like. And a dozen other bad ideas to boot. Behold, the signature legislation of the new House Democrat majority.”

Related Issues: Campaigns & Elections, First Amendment