Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spoke out Wednesday on “Special Report” following a White House meeting with his Democratic counterparts and an at-times heated Senate Rules Committee markup of the election law overhaul bill the “For the People Act.”
The Act, sponsored in the House by Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland, and in the Senate by Sen. Jeffrey Merkley of Oregon, would ensure “automatic” voter registration, require states to allow same-day voter registration on Election Day, and take aim at what are often Republican efforts to “purge” voter rolls of alleged inconsistencies and disparities, such as a recent exercise in Georgia that resulted in a contentious court battle.
The bill also includes an item prohibiting ineligible voters from being prosecuted for being “mistakenly registered.” The legislation — first introduced two years ago — would also give independent commissions the job of drawing congressional districts, require political groups to disclose high-dollar donors, create reporting requirements for online political ads, and, in a nod to Democrats’ long-running complaint about former President Donald Trump, obligate presidents to disclose their tax returns.
Host Bret Baier noted the rare situation in which both the Senate Democratic Leader and Senate Republican Leader take part in a markup hearing.
During the session, Schumer and McConnell traded sharp criticisms:
“In the wake of the 2020 elections…. former president Trump told a lie, a big lie, that the election was stolen… poisoning faith in our democracy and fomenting an armed insurrection at the Capitol,” Schumer said. “Republicans no longer want to let the voters pick their politicians – they want politicians to pick their voters.”
SCHUMER, MCCONNELL SPAR OVER TRUMP, STATE ELECTION LAW IN SHOWDOWN OVER DEMOCRAT-BACKED ELECTION BILL
On Fox News, McConnell pushed back again, specifically against the New York Democrat’s claim Republicans want to put the election power in the hands of politicians rather than the voters.
“What the democratic leader just set is utter nonsense. What their bill is about is a partisan takeover of how we conduct elections in this country,” he told Baier.
“It passed on a totally partisan basis in the House. The last time we passed a major election reform bill 20 years ago, [former Connecticut Democratic Sen.] Chris Dodd and I did it. It was passed with 90 votes – so, this has nothing whatsoever to do with anything other than a Democratic takeover.”
McConnell pointed to the fact the legislation would reduce the Federal Election Commission to a 5-member board rather than 6; giving the sitting president the likely tie-breaking appointee.
“So, the Democrats would be in charge of enforcing the rules: a terrible, terrible idea. Nothing bipartisan about that,” he said
The Kentuckian remarked that, despite Vice President Harris holding a tie-breaking vote of her own in the Senate, the legislation “is not going anywhere” without the abolition of the 60-vote filibuster rule, and the fact that moderate Democrats Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia aren’t yet sold on voting with the rest of their party.
“It’s a solution in search of a problem,” McConnell continued. “We had rapid, incredible turnout last year, dramatically up [from 2016]. The highest turnout since 1900.”
“Nobody’s votes are being suppressed anywhere across America in any of the states. This is a bill that should not pass because it is a partisan takeover,” he said, adding that it is unthinkable the Democrats would try to pass a bill that would make elections mandatorily less secure by prohibiting states from enacting Voter ID laws.
The U.S. Constitution provides that control over elections be relegated to state governments.
Later in the interview, the Republican leader largely deferred any opinion on the ouster of Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., as House Republican Conference Chairwoman – characterizing the House Republicans’ actions as their own business.
“I stand by what I said about Liz Cheney before. I’m a great admirer of hers. As to who is supposed to be in leadership in the house, that’s up to House Republicans,” he said.
HOUSE DEMS REVIVE ‘FOR THE PEOPLE ACT’, AIMED AT ‘VOTER SUPPRESSION’, ‘DARK MONEY’, AND GERRYMANDERING
McConnell also said he knew from his time working with President Biden in the U.S. Senate that he was not a moderate, and was therefore less surprised than most when the Wilmington Democrat kicked off his term with a heavy-handed left turn.
“I like the president. I liked him when he was in the Senate. We did some deals together. I never thought he was a moderate,” McConnell said.
“I wasn’t particularly surprised that this administration started off on the hard left the way they will pivot is when they can’t get enough votes to do things on their own. And I think that’s what we’re seeing here with the good session that we had down at the White House today about an issue we can tackle on a bipartisan basis,” he added, referring to national infrastructure.
Fox News’ Tyler Olson contributed to this report.