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Republicans prepare their wish list for an unobstructed Senate

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Republicans prepare their wish list for an unobstructed Senate

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If Democrats trigger the so-called “nuclear option” to create a special exception to the normal filibuster rules to approve new voting rights legislation, they could actually pave the way for tougher voting standards – eventually.

Political pros say the next time Republicans take the reins in Washington, they will not only use the new unobstructed window to erase some of the Democrats’ changes, but they will also go even further, imposing their ideas on election integrity. to the whole country.

Ideas like forcing states to clean up voter rolls or banning the practice of ballot harvesting would be possible if Republicans didn’t have to face Democratic filibuster.

But it won’t stop there, the Republicans swear.

If the Democrats use a shortcut to create a filibuster exception for their priority issue, it will quickly be expanded to accommodate Republican priorities the next time Republicans take control of policy levers in Washington.

Senator John Cornyn checked off a list.

“More pro-life bills, more bills supporting, let’s say, universal carry under the Second Amendment, let’s say more border security, more national security legislation to support our military,” said the Texas Republican. “These are just a few of the areas.”

Democrats are wrestling with what to do about the filibuster, a defining feature of the Senate that gives the out-of-power party a say in what happens — and in this case, prevents Democrats from delivering several major elements of their wish list.

Party leaders entered the year wondering if they could crack down on the filibuster at all levels, but opposition within their ranks shelved those plans. Then Democratic leaders opted for a narrower strategy — creating an exception just for voting rights, which party leaders say are under attack in Republican-led states.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s exact strategy is still in development, but he appears to be aiming for a vote next week on the “nuclear option” – a shortcut to changing the filibuster rules by a majority vote, rather than the two-thirds usually required for such changes. Or, as the Republicans say, break the rules to change the rules.

For now, Democrats insist that the new filibuster exclusion would only apply to voting rights.

That already leaves Republicans plenty of room to manoeuvre.

J. Christian Adams, president of the voter integrity group Public Interest Legal Foundation, said Republicans could use a voting rights disqualification to tackle longstanding issues with dirty voter rolls and legacy of the Automotive Voters Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2001. Act. He said a clash of laws has allowed non-citizens to register and, in some cases, vote in federal elections, even though it is not permitted by law.

“One of the things they have to do is clean up the motor voter,” Mr Adams said.

Republicans are also considering a crackdown on so-called ballot collection, where political operatives collect and file ballots that have been mailed to voters. Republicans say the practice is conducive to fraud or pressure on vulnerable people about how to vote.

A national standard for voter identification could also be in the future, although Mr Adams urged caution in this regard. He said it would be as good as the will of the Federal Department of Justice to enforce it.

“I know the people who would enforce this national standard, and they’re not going to enforce it,” said Adams, who worked on suffrage at the department.

Democrats are well aware of what Republicans could do.

It’s one of the reasons Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, resisted using the nuclear option to change the filibuster rules.

“Every time there’s an exclusion, you eat the whole turkey. There is nothing left,” he told reporters earlier this month.

Other members of the Democratic Caucus, however, said it was worth a shot.

“It’s the risk, but it’s a risk we have to take in the name of protecting democracy,” said Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucus with Democrats.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, has identified a list of 18 bills he would pursue in a world where the filibuster has been disorganized, ranging from environmental policy to immigration.

Punishing sanctuary cities, blocking settlement payments to illegal immigrants arrested at the border, and approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would all be prime offers.

Indeed, Mr. McConnell signaled that there was no need to wait for the Republicans to regain a majority.

Although it’s a rarely used power, any senator can try to force a bill to be introduced, and McConnell said he would do so if the filibuster threshold for start a debate was lowered. Republicans have already introduced all 18 bills, making them available for action.

Some Democrats say they expect Republicans to erase the filibuster the next time they get control anyway, so it makes sense for Democrats to do it now and count any gains they can.

“There’s every reason to believe they would anyway, one way or another,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island.

He said when Democrats triggered the nuclear option in 2013 to end the filibuster of presidential candidates, they left the Supreme Court picks in part because Republican senators begged for the exclusion. Then the Republicans took over, and when the next Supreme Court pick came, the GOP itself triggered the nuclear option.

“They don’t have any credibility on that, unfortunately,” he said.

His recollection of 2013 conflicts with that of other Democrats, including Mr. Schumer, the current top House Democrat, who told CNN in 2017 that he argued for the Supreme Court exception, as well as one for Cabinet Picks.

“I won in the Supreme Court, lost in Cabinet,” Schumer said.

In 2013, McConnell also warned Democrats that breaching the filibuster wall by some candidates would mean the Supreme Court would be next.

“If the Majority Leader changes the rules for some judicial nominees, he is effectively changing them for all judicial nominees, including the Supreme Court,” he said.

Mr. McConnell would fulfill that prophecy in 2017, installing the first of President Trump’s three Supreme Court picks after he used the nuclear option to change the rules for filibustering judges.

He now offers this example as a warning to Democrats eager for another round of nuclear war in the Senate.

Republicans prepare their wish list for an unobstructed Senate

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