This week’s Beltway brawls over infrastructure, the Biden fiscal agenda and the federal debt ceiling, for all their sound and fury, are merely preliminary legislative bouts. The main event of the 117th Congress will be the epic fight over “voting rights.” The Democrats know their congressional majorities are unlikely to survive next year’s midterms unless both houses pass one of three controversial bills — the For the People Act, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, or the Freedom to Vote Act. Deceptively benign titles notwithstanding, each of these bills arrogate to the federal government powers reserved to the states by the Constitution.
The first two were passed by the House but were DOA in the Senate. The Freedom to Vote Act, however, is a Senate bill (S.2747) and it is co-sponsored by Sen. Manchin. When the current budget battles are over, the Democrats will send S.2747 to the Senate floor for a vote. It will fail to garner 60 votes, whereupon Manchin will claim GOP intransigence “forced” him to break his pledge to preserve the filibuster. Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, the only other Democratic senator overtly opposed to killing the filibuster, will by then be so damaged by the abuse to which she is now being subjected over Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending bill that she will immediately cave and begin reciting the obligatory talking points:
In the face of state-level threats that undercut the fundamental right to vote for millions of Americans, we must act now to protect our democracy. Our bill would set commonsense minimum standards to ensure that no state infringes upon its citizen’s right to vote and confront widespread anti-democratic practices such as partisan gerrymandering and dark money spending. Free, fair and open elections are the backbone of our national commitment to government of the people, by the people, and for the people – and through this legislation, we will do our part to pass this experiment in self-government on to the next generation of Americans.
This claim that there is a vast GOP conspiracy to suppress the vote is fiction. It is nothing more than empty agitprop for Democrats to deploy against states that pass election integrity laws. When subjected to even a modicum of scrutiny the claim falls apart. President Biden used it to denounce Georgia’s new election law, for example, and the Washington Post awarded him four Pinocchios. Yet the same false charges have been leveled at Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, Montana, Nevada, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. No matter how many times this nonsense has been debunked the Democrats continue to recycle it on cue.
However, for the Democrats, mere facts are irrelevant. Election integrity laws are an existential threat to the very survival of their party. They are ostensibly led by a President whose job approval rating hovers in the low to mid-forties in most national polls. His numbers are even worse in important battleground states. A new survey conducted in North Carolina shows Biden with an approval rating of 38 percent. This is unlikely to improve significantly if his domestic and foreign policy blunders continue to mount at their current rate. Combined with an upcoming midterm election cycle that is historically unkind to the party in power, this is lethal. As Douglas Schoen and Carly Cooperman write at The Hill:
The recent decline in support for President Biden and his administration likely means that the Democratic Party will lose control of the House and potentially the Senate in 2022 — and makes it increasingly likely that Biden will be a one-term president … President Biden’s approval rating has markedly deteriorated, having dropped 16 points since this spring … What explains Biden’s precipitous decline? … In short, by catering to the left wing of the party, the Biden administration risks enhancing the likelihood of an outcome in the midterms similar to 1994 and 2010, when similar big government initiatives cost the Democrats control of Congress.
As this week’s budget battles have demonstrated, neither the President nor congressional Democrats are able to escape the clutches of the increasingly powerful left wing of their party. Consequently, they will attempt to change the way congressional elections are conducted in the states by passing the Freedom to Vote Act. Masquerading as champions of voting rights they will use this pernicious and unconstitutional legislation to fundamentally alter the democratic process in a way that favors their party for decades to come. And, make no mistake, that is what the Freedom to Vote Act does. It contains virtually all the defects that rendered the For the People Act a dead letter when it was delivered to the Senate.
The bill would, for example, create a federal right to a no-excuse mail-in ballot for every registered voter in the nation. This would increase the potential for fraud exponentially and invalidate election statutes in more than a dozen states. It would mandate automatic voter registration via state motor vehicle agencies, guaranteeing that non-citizens and other ineligible people will be able to vote. It would loosen voter ID requirements to the point at which they would be meaningless while rendering null and void any state law requiring a photo ID to vote. S.2747 also requires states to give felons the right to vote immediately upon release from prison, which would invalidate laws in over half the states.
The Freedom to Vote Act contains several provisions that run afoul of the Constitution. Among the most obvious is its requirement that “super PACs, 501(c)(4) groups, and other organizations spending money in elections to disclose donors.” This duplicates a violation of the First Amendment that was also included in the ill-fated For the People Act. Even the American Civil Liberties Union withheld its support from the latter because this provision infringes upon political speech. The legislation also commandeers the broad authority to regulate all elections—congressional and presidential—an expansion of federal power that cannot be reconciled with the nation’s founding document.
None of these constitutional defects concern the Democrats. Their bluster notwithstanding, they know they’re fighting for their lives. Amidst such desperation, Sen. Manchin sounds like the voice of reason: “While I am hopeful that common ground can be found that would result in another historic investment in our nation, I cannot — and will not — support trillions in spending or an all or nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality our nation faces.” But the Mountain State mountebank is just keeping his powder dry. When his “voting rights” bill reaches the Senate floor, he will blow up the filibuster and jam the Freedom to Vote Act down our collective throats. We have all been here before of course.