The GOP is gearing up for what could be a contentious battle over the next stage of coronavirus relief, as Democrats continue to signal their desire to pursue a variety of changes related to the U.S. election.
Republicans and Democrats are expected to begin the process of crafting the next stage of economic relief after successfully passing a bipartisan measure to provide relief to small businesses and individuals affected by the coronavirus pandemic last month. The measure ultimately passed unanimously in the Senate, but it initially did not go without opposition, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) attempted to offer her own version of relief filled with a variety of liberal “wish list” items, including major changes to voting methods. While the speaker has signaled support for a bipartisan measure in the same mold as the last, she hinted last week that she is still going to pursue changes to voting methods.
“Vote-by-mail is essential to protecting the future of our democracy as we confront this public health crisis. There is no legitimate argument against enacting it,” Pelosi said last week:
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) April 3, 2020
The GOP and Trump administration are gearing up for battle, condemning the left for attempting to use the coronavirus pandemic to push their greater political agendas related to voting methods in U.S. elections.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is leading the Democrat effort, pushing a bill to provide vote-by-mail and expand early voting. She claims Democrats are getting “more and more bipartisan support from secretaries of states across the country,” according to Politico.
“In a worst case scenario communities may be facing the choice of either voting by mail or not voting at all,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is spearheading the effort alongside Klobuchar, said.
“We’re already going in this direction and now we’re in the middle of a pandemic and I think this is a very different time,” he added.
The Phase 3 bill provided $400 million for election security grants, “which can be used broadly, including to expand vote-by-mail options and early voting, as well as to clean polling facilities and conduct public education campaigns,” as Politico reported.
Democrats, however, believe they need more:
Citing the move by some Republicans to delay primaries amid coronavirus concerns, Klobuchar said that she is “looking at that next package to get the funding included” as well as some additional reforms, like removing state requirements that voters present an excuse to vote absentee.
“That’s premature. Around the world we’ve had people in new democracies go to vote when their lives were at risk because the right to vote was so precious,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said, according to Politico. “Most Americans would be very skeptical of significant changes in our ability to go cast a ballot in person, certainly at this point.”
“States should run state’s elections,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) stated. “Washington D.C. should not run the state’s elections. So if a state determines that’s the way it wants to go, a state should make that decision.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) took it a step further, stating bluntly that Democrats “want the federal government to take over elections.”
“Our Democratic friends want the federal government to take over elections, but historically those have been handled at the state level,” Cornyn said, according to Politico.
If voters “can go to the grocery store, they can go to the polls,” he added.
President Trump has also cast doubt on the idea of mail-in voting.
“I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting,” Trump said last week. “I think people should vote with ID, with Voter ID.”
Several Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and her former campaign attorney Marc Elias, however, are continuing to use the pandemic to push major voter changes. Those include mail-in voting, curbside voting, and ballot harvesting:
Congress needs to act to make voting by mail the norm going forward, with the specifics outlined by election expert Marc Elias below to make it accessible for all. https://t.co/K2TlHIJx2d
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 18, 2020
States must take concrete steps now to make sure every citizen can be heard in November, no matter where we are by then in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. https://t.co/OFIPHqcdM0
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) April 5, 2020
Thank you @marceelias for highlighting the pressing issue in front of us.
Election Day is 211 days away.
All states must start taking action now to ensure every voice is heard. https://t.co/IAa8lC78Rh
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) April 5, 2020
Nonetheless, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has warned Democrats, Pelosi particularly, against “taking advantage of the crisis to do things that are unrelated to the crisis.”