‘H.R. 1’: Pelosi’s Voting Reforms Bill Will Prove “Absolutely Devastating for Republicans”

The Biden administration has faced backlash from Republicans after a controversial voting reform bill narrowly passed in the House of Representatives on the 3rd of March. 

The bill has been dubbed by GOP Senate Minority leader, Mitch McConnell, as an "assault on elections" to “win elections in perpetuity," with other Republicans labelling the reforms as an attempt to “unlevel the playing field and take away the rights of roughly half of the voters in the country.” 

H.R. 1, styled by the Democrats as the ‘For the People Act’, is a comprehensive voting, elections and ethics bill that was passed in the House of Representatives on the 3rd of March. The bill includes many reforms, including:

The legislation will also enable citizens to vote by mail without providing an excuse and will force states to count ballots that arrive by mail as late as 10 days after an election. Additionally, H.R. 1 will legalize the practice of ‘ballot harvesting’, where a political organization pays a worker to visit neighbourhoods, knocking on doors and offering to help residents fill out mail ballots.

Democrats framed H.R.1 as key legislation which aimed at increasing access to the polls and preventing corruption. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said that the bill would “restore the people's faith that government works for the public interest, the people's interests, not the special interests.” Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, stated that the legislation would "combat all of these voter suppression efforts by restoring critical parts of the Voting Rights Act... mak[ing] it easier, not harder, to vote by automatically registering American voters when they get a driver’s license.” President Joe Biden released a statement on March 4th “applaud[ing]” Speaker Pelosi and the House of Representatives for passing H.R. 1, stating: 

“I look forward to working with Congress to refine and advance this important bill. And I look forward to signing it into law after it has passed through the legislative process so that together we can strengthen and restore American democracy for the next election and all those to come.”

The bill passed in the House of Representatives on a near party-line of 220 - 210 votes on the 3rd March, where it has now passed to the Senate. The legislation has faced heavy criticism from Republican officials, conservative organizations and conservative political commentators. The Wall Street Journal opposed the bill, stating that it was designed to “auto-enrol likely Democratic voters, enhanc[ing] Democratic turnout, with no concern for ballot integrity.” 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell labelled the bill as a Democratic “power grab,” and later told the Ruthless Podcast that the Democrats “want to change the system to benefit themselves.” He continued to say that the bill was not created concerning anything other than helping the Democrats to perpetually win:

"We had record turnouts last year... So this is not to drive up turnout, turnout's already driven up," McConnell said. "It's to take over the Federal Election Commission so it can be a prosecutor. It's to provide public funding for elections. It's to provide the same-day registration, which I just looked at a survey that said something 81% of the Amerian people are concerned about something like that leading to voting fraud. It's about eliminating voter ID at the polls, which the American people support 72-25. It also mandates what's called ballot harvesting, which is going around and picking up ballots of other people. The American people, when that's explained to 'em, oppose it 83-16."

Other Republicans have condemned the legislation, asserting that it would replace the decentralised voting system established by the Constitution with a centralised, national system. Mark Weaver, an Ohio based election law attorney, warned that “H.R. 1 is an attempt to use the Democrats slim majority to ‘un-level’ the playing field and take away the rights of roughly half of the voters in the country,” and Republican strategist Jay Williams stated that the bill would be “absolutely devastating for Republicans” if it passed. 

H.R. 1 will additionally allow the government to make the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico into the 51st and 52nd states, handing the Democrats four more Senate seats, breaking the current 50-50 tie. Currently, voter registration in D.C. is 76% Democratic and only 6% Republican. 

60 votes are needed to enact H.R. 1 under the filibuster rule, a parliamentary procedure used in the United States Senate to prevent a measure from being brought to a vote. Leader Mitch McConnell stated that the filibuster will prevent the measures, stating that “we're down to two brave Democrats - Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona” who are “preserving the institution."

McConnell concluded:

"These folks [the Democrats] are not interested in compromise, they're interested in passing all of their bills to remake America in spite of the mandate that they did not get last year, as rapidly as possible.”

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