The “For the People Act,” otherwise known as H.R.1 (House Resolution 1) has passed the House of Representatives and the Senate version, S.1 (Senate Bill 1) is now before the Senate—and under the gun of threatened filibuster by Mitch McConnell.
What is “The For the People Act?” It is a bill to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, limit partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders.”
In short, this bill counteracts the numerous Republican efforts to limit voting, including the odious bill just passed in Georgia which includes insane rules like making it illegal to provide water to people waiting in line to vote. The Georgia bill is a blatant effort to reenact the loathsome Jim Crow era and restrict voting by black citizens.
H.R.1 also counters the infamous Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision which opened the doors to rivers of dark money—essentially anonymous donations—to political campaigns.
A great digest of H.R. 1 is covered in this post at the Bulwark: H.R. 1 For Dummies.
The popularity of H.R.1 is unquestioned. Both Democratic and Republican voters favor it by a wide margin. But Republican candidates and office holders, not so much. Large donors who want to continue to buy influence positively hate it.
The New Yorker ran an article today about how the Kochs are dead set against H.R. 1 becoming law. So much so that they are coordinating directly with Mitch McConnell’s staff.
In public, Republicans have denounced Democrats’ ambitious electoral-reform bill, the For the People Act, as an unpopular partisan ploy. In a contentious Senate committee hearing last week, Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, slammed the proposal, which aims to expand voting rights and curb the influence of money in politics, as “a brazen and shameless power grab by Democrats.” But behind closed doors Republicans speak differently about the legislation, which is also known as House Resolution 1 and Senate Bill 1. They admit the lesser-known provisions in the bill that limit secret campaign spending are overwhelmingly popular across the political spectrum. In private, they concede their own polling shows that no message they can devise effectively counters the argument that billionaires should be prevented from buying elections.
A recording obtained by The New Yorker of a private conference call on January 8th, between a policy adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell and the leaders of several prominent conservative groups—including one run by the Koch brothers’ network—reveals the participants’ worry that the proposed election reforms garner wide support not just from liberals but from conservative voters, too. The speakers on the call expressed alarm at the broad popularity of the bill’s provision calling for more public disclosure about secret political donors. The participants conceded that the bill, which would stem the flow of dark money from such political donors as the billionaire oil magnate Charles Koch, was so popular that it wasn’t worth trying to mount a public-advocacy campaign to shift opinion. Instead, a senior Koch operative said that opponents would be better off ignoring the will of American voters and trying to kill the bill in Congress.
The Will of the People
The popularity of this bill with the rank and file voters of both parties is something major donors like the Kochs and their allies, as well as obstructive incumbents like McConnell, fear. So their plan is to just ignore what we want and find a way to block it.
This is a bit harder for McConnell now that he no longer commands a majority in the Senate, but not that much. The most potent tool he has is the filibuster. As has been frequently written, this slave-era relic of Senate procedure needs to be put out of our misery once and for all.
We have a chance to reverse the downward trend of the United States toward an “elected” oligarchy (a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution). Pushing H.R. 1 through Congress and to Biden’s desk for signature is probably the most important legislative item on deck. It is what will stop the forces that want to see the United States as a club for billionaire elites served by masses of the disenfranchised who have no choices in their governance.