Inside Mitch McConnell's personal push to defeat Democrats' voting reforms

David Catanese, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — Every week, a group of nearly 100 conservative leaders convene for a 30-minute strategy call on a single issue: how to combat Democrats’ sweeping legislation to change the way federal elections are conducted.

Two weeks ago, the keynote briefer was Sen. Mitch McConnell, who made it crystal clear that defeating the “For the People Act” is his top priority of this two-year legislative session.

McConnell has conveyed his vehement opposition to the bill repeatedly in public. What’s different, conservatives say, is his personal level of commitment behind-the-scenes to educate activists on just how damaging the legislation would be to the future electoral prospects of Republicans. To those involved, they’ve noticed a level of engagement from the GOP leader they haven’t seen before.

“So many times the conservative movement only works with McConnell when it’s a Supreme Court nomination, or a Supreme Court fight. And so we’ve been trying to change that with HR 1 and S 1 and really make this fight similar and more akin to a Supreme Court fight, where it’s like an all-hands-on-deck effort,” said Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action, one of the leading conservative groups mobilizing to fight President Joe Biden’s agenda.

That the bills in both congressional chambers are listed with the number "1" indicates just how eager Democrats are to pass them. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has designated the overhaul of voting rights as a top priority he wants to see completed by August.

The House and accompanying Senate bill are packed with a laundry list of provisions, including the elimination of voter identification requirements and implementation of automatic voter registration and same-day voting registration.


It would end gerrymandering, the partisan process used to redraw congressional districts as well as provide matching federal dollars to candidates who pledge to swear off large campaign contributions.

McConnell has blasted this as a “partisan takeover” that “would victimize every taxpayer” and “give Washington Democrats unprecedented control over 50 states’ election laws.” His political aide Josh Holmes has dubbed it “the worst piece of legislation I’ve ever laid eyes upon.”

Some progressives have warned that McConnell is taking the legislation more seriously than even Democrats are. And the fight is expected to intensify next week, when the Senate Rules & Administration Committee is scheduled to begin marking up the legislation.

Jenny Beth Martin, who leads Tea Party Patriots Action, has been mobilizing her members on the issue for weeks.


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