Mitch McConnell's Fear Of H.R. 1

[ Posted Thursday, January 17th, 2019 – 18:18 UTC ]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the time this week to pen an opinion piece in the Washington Post warning of the dire consequences that would happen if the Democratic House's first bill (H.R. 1, or the "For The People Act") ever became law. He calls it the "Democrat [sic] Politician Protection Act." However, he really fails to explain why anything in the act (other than changes to the Federal Election Commission) would specifically help Democrats at the expense of Republicans. Instead, his article reads as nothing short of free-floating angst over the changes Democrats are proposing.

What's really telling is that Mitch felt the need to attack this bill now, when he obviously has other things on his plate to worry about (like reopening the government). That the bill is causing such deep concern in the Republican Party is very good news for Democrats, since the bill itself is such a breathtaking overhaul of elections, ethics rules, and how money influences politics. While not everyone will likely agree on the need for every item contained within it, the chances are that most of it will sound pretty good to most people.

The bill's chance of becoming law under McConnell and President Trump is pretty remote, obviously. Instead, it will serve as the core of the Democratic Party's 2020 platform, or at least those parts of the platform that deal with elections, government ethics, and how money has corrupted our system. The bill itself (PDF download) is extensive -- over 500 pages long -- and even summarizing it is tough because of how many subjects it tackles at once. A while back, the HuffPost had a pretty good rundown of what the bill contained, while most other media outlets have so far failed to even accurately list what is in it (choosing instead to focus on a handful of items at the expense of all the others). Here is my own recap of what the HuffPost article detailed, in as brief a form as possible.

The For The People Act would:

  • Require all states to automatically register voters who have contact with state government, unless the person opts out of being registered.
  • Require all states to institute same-day voter registration.
  • Require all states to institute online voter registration.
  • Require states to designate colleges and universities as voter registration agencies.
  • Require all states to have 15 days of early voting, with sites located near public transportation.
  • Require all states to use paper ballots, so that recounts will be possible.
  • Require all states to count provisional ballots from people voting at wrong precinct.
  • Require all states to have postage-free absentee ballots.
  • Require all states to create nonpartisan redistricting commissions for House redistricting, to end gerrymandering forever.
  • Require all states to re-enfranchise felons after they have completed their sentence.
  • Require all states to ban "voter caging," purging voter rolls using non-forwardable mail, and purging voter rolls of people who have not voted in previous elections.
  • Make Election Day a national federal holiday.
  • Increase federal funding to update and secure election infrastructure.
  • Create a public financing system for House races that matches every dollar in small donations ($200 and under) with six dollars of public money. Participants in this system would be banned from raising money from large donors.
  • Create small-donor matching system for presidential elections, as well (Senate elections would be addressed in a separate bill).
  • Nonprofits and other groups must disclose donors if they contribute to election campaigns.
  • Online campaign ads will be required to disclose donors, just like broadcast ads.
  • Shrink the Federal Election Commission from six members to five, to avoid the constant deadlocks which are so common now.
  • Ban coordination between super PACs and campaigns.
  • Require presidential inauguration committees to disclose expenditures and ban them from spending money on things not directly related to the inauguration.
  • Require disclosure of donations to inauguration committees from corporations, nonprofits, and government contractors.
  • Require presidential candidates to disclose 10 years of their tax returns.
  • Require the president and vice president to follow executive branch's conflict-of-interest regulations.
  • Require all presidential appointees to recuse themselves from any decisions involving the president or his family.
  • Ban the president and vice president from contracting with the federal government.
  • Give the Office of Government Ethics new enforcement powers.
  • Require public disclosure of any waivers given by the O.G.E.
  • Widen the definition of who must register as a lobbyist.
  • Ban former government employees from cashing in (through "the revolving door") for two years after they leave their service.
  • Require the Supreme Court to develop a code of ethics to deal with conflicts of interest and recusals.
  • Ban members of Congress from using taxpayer funds to settle employment discrimination cases.
  • Ban members of Congress from serving on corporate boards.

Whew! As you can see, that's a monstrously extensive list of proposed changes. Several of them would be incredibly far-reaching and fundamentally change politics in the future. Requiring states to adopt nonpartisan redistricting commissions, for example, would go a long way towards banning partisan gerrymandering forever.

In fact, the sweep of the bill is so breathtakingly ambitious that several of the items may in fact require constitutional amendments. I'm not sure the Supreme Court would agree to creating a code of ethics for itself imposed upon it by the legislative branch, for instance. The requirements for states to change their election systems might also be constitutionally challenged (as a "federalization" of our elections).

But again, this bill isn't going to become law any time soon. In fact, it will have to make it through multiple House committees before it ever sees a floor vote, so changes will doubtless be made along the way. But you've got to admire the goals it sets forth, even if some of them will likely wind up being watered down.

Even though the bill has dozens of goals, summing them all up is pretty easy for the Democrats to do: "We believe that our elections and government ethics need serious reforms, and these are our ideas on how to do so. We want to make it easier for people to vote, and harder for politicians to suppress their voices. We want to fight the influence of big money donors and the rigged system of their outsize influence in Washington. We want to know who is funding political campaigns, and force all these groups to publicly disclose their donors. We want to end gerrymandering and force the president and the Supreme Court to follow ethics rules that everyone else in the federal government is required to follow. Why should they be exempt from conflict-of-interest rules?"

These are all messages that resonate with a lot of people, across the political spectrum. This will force Republicans to attempt to defend the worst practices in place now, which -- if Mitch McConnell's article is any indication -- is going to be very tough for them to do. Here's how he ends his argument:

From the First Amendment to your ballot box, Democrats want to rewrite the rules to favor themselves and their friends. Upending the F.E.C., squeezing taxpayers, attacking privacy and jeopardizing our elections are a price they'll happily pay for this partisan power grab.

Fortunately, the November elections that handed Pelosi the House also expanded Republicans' Senate majority. I hope the two bodies can find common ground and build on the bipartisan successes of last Congress -- but this outlandish Democrat [sic] proposal is not a promising start. My colleagues and I will proudly defend your privacy and your elections.

Got that? Mitch equates allowing big donors to stay anonymous with "proudly defending your privacy and elections." That's pretty weak, in the face of the Democratic argument to the contrary. Hatred of the outsized influence of money in politics is incredibly widespread across the entire political spectrum, so McConnell and other Republicans are going to have a very hard sell indeed, even to their own base voters.

The fact that they're already alarmed enough about this bill to take time during the shutdown to fight it, though, is perhaps the best measure of how potent these issues may soon become. Once this bill starts making its way through the House, the media will have to pay attention to it, and once the public is informed about what is in it, the For The People Act is likely to grow in popularity. McConnell has the power to stop it from becoming law, for now, but he won't have the power to avoid it becoming a centerpiece in the Democratic Party platform in 2020.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


24 Comments on “Mitch McConnell's Fear Of H.R. 1”

  1. [1] 
    Paula wrote:

    Wow Chris - Thanks for that summary! This will be bookmarked and shared.

    Bravo Dems! Outstanding set of goals!

  2. [2] 
    neilm wrote:

    Remember, this is the crowd that sold "Citizens United" to its base as an issue with a Hilary Clinton movie.

    This will be mincemeat in DC - it is only allowed to exist at all because it is just a piece of elections propaganda.

    Remember when Republicans tried to convince everybody before the last election that they were the ones trying to protect pre-existing conditions.

  3. [3] 
    neilm wrote:

    By the way, has anybody seen the "pro-wall" ads appearing online?

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    tack on a wall.

  5. [5] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    Little Mitch again shows that the Republicans are not interested in governing.... They are interested in only ruling.

    If the dems were savy they would call little Mitch out and demand to know what the GOP plans to do to fix the election system.

    To date the only thing they have done is sit on their hands... especially after known outside meddling.

    Maybe the answer to the shut down is to write a budget that gives Cheeto Christ his stupid wall money and also includes DACA protections as well as the voting reform issues and protection for the social programs from budget cuts, maybe a good no budget/no pay bill...hell just throw the kitchen sink in as well.

    Then watch the the GOP refuse to vote on it and all the dems have to do is point out that they are giving the border money and call the GOP out on the fact that they are only interested in ruling, not governing.

  6. [6] 
    neilm wrote:

    Add DACA to HR1, bolt on $5.9 for the wall, and dare McConnell to stop it if Trump is on board.

  7. [7] 
    neilm wrote:

    And why isn't HR-1 called the "Drain the Swamp Act"?

  8. [8] 
    Paula wrote:

    Late Thursday night Buzzfeed News dropped a story claiming DT ordered Michael Cohen (and Don Jr. & Ivanka) to like to Congress about efforts to land the Trump-Russia Hotel gig. Says the allegations are backed by multiple forms of evidence (emails, documents, interviews with multiple staffers, etc.).

    Significance: First allegations against DT himself, not someone around him; suborning of perjury, obstruction of justice and witness tampering all occurring AFTER DT was POTUS - not before.

  9. [9] 
    Paula wrote:

    Lawfare blog had an analysis up today:

    I said last Friday's news about FBI looking into DT-as-Russian-Asset combined with story about DT destroying transcripts of conversations with Putin changed the dynamic re: Trump-Russia - the unthinkable (Is he a Russian asset) had become thinkable & media was free to speculate on it.

    This Friday, the Buzzfeed News story changes the dynamic re: impeachment. Up til now Dem leaders and media have been very skittish about the topic, worrying that it would be seen as too partisan and Repubs have used the possible threat of impeachment as a fundraiser on the right. Now calls are starting for Dems to "begin impeachment proceedings". Impeachment is a process and it takes awhile - why not get it started?

    Another shift has happened.

  10. [10] 
    Paula wrote:

    [9] Lie, not "like". Sigh.

  11. [11] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Buzzfeed isn't yet being backed up by other news sources, so this story hasn't got any legs yet.

    Interesting that members of congress, anxious to take on Trump, are arguing suddenly that the Mueller investigation should end. I don't know where I stand on that.

    Re H.R. 1: McConnell's right. It would rip the guts out of Republicanism. And it's about time, too. Think about it: when was the last time that you saw a Repub advocate for more voting hours, or suggest a federal voting holiday? These things have been out there forever, and it's about time to get them started.

  12. [12] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Now that the desperate are sinking beneath the waves still clinging to the "collusion" straw since 2016, I predict they'll start grasping for the "Lieing" straw, which will turn out to be even less buoyant than the collusion straw.

    Good thing I never gloat - getting ever harder to refrain from "Told ya so"!

  13. [13] 
    Paula wrote:

    [12] Balthasar: the story was taken seriously enough that Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings are going to investigate - through their respective committees - it's accuracy.

  14. [14] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: Got that? Mitch equates allowing big donors to stay anonymous with "proudly defending your privacy and elections."

    You will have to forgive Mitch for that "weak spit" argument there, CW, but he's a little preoccupied using his tiny bucket to bail water off the deck of the Trumptanic. Mitch and the GOP need their big donors to stay anonymous because ADX Florence. :)

  15. [15] 
    Kick wrote:


    By the way, has anybody seen the "pro-wall" ads appearing online?

    Yes, sir... aren't they cute?

    Poor Demented Benedict Donald is trapped deep inside the right-wing echo chamber bubble and convinced by the talking asshats that a seismic shift in public opinion is imminent... *shakes head*… thus, the ads. *laughs*

    "The wall" isn't about "the wall" at all, and February is going to be lit! Buckle up. :)

  16. [16] 
    Kick wrote:


    Buzzfeed isn't yet being backed up by other news sources, so this story hasn't got any legs yet.

    It's backed up by several sources already. In point of fact, when the multitude of dots are connected, there's not really a whole lot new in the Buzzfeed article that's not already been published other than the subornation of perjury claim.

    I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putin’s private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin. I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected.

    I know how to play it and we will get this done. Buddy our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this.

    Felix Sater email to Michael Cohen dated November 3, 2015

    Of course, Donald Trump would want to blur the timeline to cover his involvement with Russia, and it's not a giant leap that he would instruct his "fixer" and his family members to lie to Congress regarding same. Remember who overrode Junior and Hope Hicks and insisted on the drafting of a false statement about the email regarding the Trump Tower meeting with multiple representatives of Russia: PT.

  17. [17] 
    Paula wrote:

    So we end up with late-breaking statement from Special Counsel's office:

    BuzzFeed's description of specific statements to the Special Counsel's Office, and characteriztion of documents and testimony obtained by this office regarding Michael Cohen's Congressional testimony are not accurate.

    Since this isn't a blanket statement that the article is just plain false it has generated a lot of confusion.

    BuzzFeed published the SCO statement and said they're standing by their story.

  18. [18] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Paula [1] -

    Thanks for the kind words! I've been meaning to enumerate this list for a while, but as you can see, it's a pretty daunting list of goals!

    neilm [2] -

    Ah, don't be so cynical. Sausage-making is always tough. But you've got to admit that's a pretty extensive list to feed into the grinder!


    [3] -

    Pro-wall ads? Nope... do tell!

    [6] -

    OK, now that's a provacative idea! Wow, hadn't even thought of that... HR1 + permanent DACA fix + $5.7b for wall... I might even get on board with that, personally... that is indeed food for thought!


    Don Harris [8] -


    OK, how's this. What specific complaints do you have with anything on that list, OTHER than "it's not the perfect solution that I have come up with"?

    Seriously, how can you see any of that as bad? Steps in the right direction, and all of that...

    Balthasar [12] -

    I totally agree with your first and third paragraphs. Just wanted to say that.

    Kick [15]

    "Trumptanic" -- BWAH hah hah hah hah!!!

    Now that was funny!

    [16] -

    Thanks for the link...

    OK, that's it for now, folks...


  19. [19] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i think cw was giving you the benefit of the doubt and operating under the assumption that your post was somehow on-topic.


  20. [20] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    you seem to be under the impression that you get to decide what the topic of someone else's blog post is, rather than reading it and accepting the topic the blogger has chosen. the topic was HR1, full stop.

    a more accurate analysis would put your post at 1% on-topic. cw responded only to that 1%, and you've accused him of deflection for not responding to the 99% that was not on-topic. as to your being "on-target," that's a matter of opinion, and i've not encountered anyone else who agrees with yours.

    cheer up and have some pie,

  21. [21] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    I'm glad we now have consensus on this - You genuinely believe you have the right to dictate the topic of conversation and solicit at will. Everybody else here thinks you don't have that right, and are abusing the platform that cw provides, in spite of his gracious decision not to give you... thaboot.

  22. [22] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    There's a difference between posting one's opinion on a topic and insisting that everyone else adhere to that topic, when it wasn't the topic of the original post. Back in mid-2018 CW made clear that if possible he wanted to avoid banning commenters, and that's his prerogative. But in no way did anyone support Don's desire to dictate topics.

  23. [23] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Nor did cw or anyone else accede to his claims to have that right.

  24. [24] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    you criticized hr1 for not being what you want, in response to which CW asked what specific elements of it you didn't like, and why. you haven't yet answered that question, instead trying to turn the conversation back to other stuff that you want to talk about, but nobody else does. you call it deflection, i call it apathy.


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