Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused House Democrats of trying to “swing elections” with a major piece of legislation designed to clean up voting and campaign finance and strengthen government ethics.
McConnell described the so-called For the People Act as a “power grab” and a “naked attempt to change the rules of American politics to benefit one party” in a Thursday op-ed for The Washington Post.
The top Republican criticized Democrats for introducing the bill, also known as HR1, while the longest-ever partial government shutdown continues.
“House Democrats won’t come to the table and negotiate to reopen the government, but they’ve been hard at work angling for more control over what you can say about them and how they get reelected,” McConnell wrote.
Later Thursday, McConnell blocked legislation aimed at reopening most of the federal government, except the Department of Homeland Security, according to The Hill.
The act, the first major bill House Democrats have introduced to the 116th Congress, contains a package of reforms that aim to make voting more accessible, force President Donald Trump (and future presidential candidates) to release their tax returns and take power away from big political donors by incentivizing smaller donations and by requiring super PACs to make their private donors public.
The bill also aims to make Election Day a paid holiday for federal workers, which McConnell dismissed as a “generous new benefit” for “federal bureaucrats.” In theory, that proposal would encourage private businesses to also make Election Day a holiday, allowing more people to get to the polls.
McConnell also suggested that making private donors public was an attack on free speech.
“Apparently the Democrats define ‘democracy’ as giving Washington a clearer view of whom to intimidate and leaving citizens more vulnerable to public harassment over private views,” McConnell wrote.
The Republican also took issue with the bill’s ban on removing people from voter rolls for not voting in a previous election, as well as a ban on voter caging, a practice in which election officials send non-forwardable mail to addresses on the voter rolls, then remove anyone whose mail is returned to sender.
McConnell pointed to a mistake made in California that led to 23,000 voters being registered incorrectly, with errors including wrong party preferences.
However, linking that part of the bill to the mishap in California is misleading, according to HuffPost’s voting rights reporter Sam Levine.
“It was an issue with software, and the head of the DMV resigned,” Levine noted on Twitter. “For context, there are over 19.6 million registered voters in CA. Automatic registration added 727,924 people to the rolls since launch in April.”
“The law congress is proposing authorizes the states to set up their own systems for registering voters. People have to be given the chance to opt out,” Levine tweeted.
The law would prevent states from aggressively purging the voter rolls by removing people if they don’t vote and don’t respond to a single mailer from the state, he said. “Proponents of the change argue that this practice removes eligible voters from the rolls.”
Democrats brushed off McConnell’s criticism of their bill.
Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who introduced the bill earlier this month, tweeted Thursday night, “If [McConnell] is against it, then #HR1 must be a pretty good idea.”
Read McConnell’s full op-ed here.