The House on Friday approved the most sweeping reforms to campaign and elections law in generations, with Democrats powering the bill through over GOP objections and making quick work of their top legislative agenda for the year.
The measure would create a national standard for voting, ordering states to adopt automatic and expansive voter registration, allow for easy early voting, block some efforts to purge names from voter rolls, and use commissions to draw legislative districts.
As for campaigns, the bill would create a public financing system that would ask taxpayers to fund candidates who agree to the rules, while imposing new disclosure requirements on websites and interest groups who want to advertise in elections. It would also turn the Federal Election Commission from a structurally bipartisan panel to one where control could shift.
The bill, which analysts have compared in importance to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, cleared on a party-line 234-193 vote.
“It grabs power away from the special interests, the elites, the 1 percent, and gives it to the American people,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the California Democrat who led the floor fight.
But the bill won’t go any further.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won’t bring it to the floor, and said he can’t even see any parts of the bill that are worth salvaging and voting on piecemeal.
He’s come to call the bill the “Democrat Politician Protection Act,” and predicted that some of those who voted for it may lose their seats over it.
“I believe we can actually win elections against people who vote for this turkey,” the Kentucky Republican said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will try to force Senate action by making the issue “too hot to handle.”
“This is a fight that we’re engaged in,” she said Friday as she rallied with fellow Democrats on the Capitol steps. “We’re not going to end it until we win. We can save a lot of time by the Senate just agreeing to vote.”
Democrats said the bill grew out of years of frustration with increasing expensive campaigns, secrecy in financing, and hiccups in last year’s elections.
They also settled some scores. One provision would require presidential candidates to make years of tax returns public — a shot at President Trump, who has declined to do so.
The White House opposes the bill.
That puts Mr. Trump on the same side as the American Civil Liberties Union, which also came out in opposition, saying the bill goes too far in chilling speech, which would discourage people from getting involved in the political process.
Logan Churchwell, spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which advocated for voter integrity measures, said the bill “is doomed on all fronts.”
“Left-wing heavyweights take serious issues with much of the campaign finance portions while states like California serve as choking canaries for provisions like automatic registration,” he said. “However, the organized left is making clear that it believes desired cultural and political shifts will be achieved in pushing these process reforms. The wider electorate must understand that election laws are more than recount procedures and voter ID.”
The left-wing groups cheered the bill’s passage, calling it a historic step, and said it would curb many of the excesses they see in the Trump administration and GOP-led legislative chambers.
The groups demanded Mr. McConnell take action.
“If Mitch McConnell wants to bring up the Green New Deal, why is he scared of a vote on H.R. 1?” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.
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