|VIDEO: Blunt Delivers Opening Statement at Rules Committee Markup of S.1
Blunt: S.1 makes it easier to cheat and harder to detect
|WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, delivered his opening statement at the committee markup of S.1, Senate Democrats’ partisan, 800+ page election bill.
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Following Are Blunt’s Remarks:
“As we prepare for this markup, my staff actually went back and reviewed transcripts of previous Rules Committee business meetings. As most of you know on this committee, we work primarily through consultation, courtesy, and accommodation—resulting usually in unanimous consent.
“In fact, the daily administrative decisions of the Senate make every week interesting. Sometimes challenging, particularly during the last year and often entertaining, but only entertaining in retrospect as you look back at what members thought was critically important that week.
“We don’t have very many lengthy or spirited markups in this committee. They happen from time to time. It actually appears the cycle is very close to the appearance of the cicada, about every 17 years we have a significant markup in this committee. The most recent example of that occurred April 27, 2005, when Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi was the chairman and the committee was considering legislation clarifying the status of 527 organizations.
“During that markup, there were lots of questions about procedures that the committee would follow. Unfortunately, while those questions were answered, there’s no real record of where those questions were answered at that time. Because legislative markups of this nature are less frequent, I will ask Chairwoman Klobuchar, who was notified that I’d be asking a few questions this week, to build a record so that the next time this comes up, the chairman, the ranking member, and the members will have a record to go back to.
“But today’s markup is the top legislative priority of the Democrats in the Senate. I think it raises fundamental questions about the nature of our elections:
- Should political campaigns be federally funded?
- Who should handle voters’ ballots? Should armies of paid campaign staff—so-called “ballot harvesters”—not only be allowed to collect ballots but be required in every state not to be prohibited to collect ballots at anywhere, nursing homes, retirement communities, or frankly, anywhere from anyone?
- Should the lists of eligible voters on Election Day be accurate?
- Who do you trust more to run the elections in your community? Should your neighbors and fellow residents run elections in your community or should federal officials in Washington, DC make the rules?
“Most Americans agree that voting is already pretty easy, yet we find ourselves here being asked to support a federal takeover of elections that would force a Washington, DC one-size-fits-all approach on every voting precinct in every state for elections that begin less than a year from now—an approach that would cause chaos on Election Day and erode trust in our election system.
“The problem here, however, even if we change those deadlines, in my view, is not how quickly this would happen but whether it should ever happen.
“I happen to think that local officials running elections with local decisions has served the country and continues to serve the country pretty well, just as it did in 2020.
“This is, in my view, a bad bill, full of bad policies that create problems more than they create solutions. We should be focused on making it easier to vote and harder to cheat. Regrettably, I think this bill makes it easier to cheat and harder to detect. Except for Senator Manchin, every Democrat Senator has unfortunately sponsored this federal takeover of our elections and as Senator Klobuchar mentioned, that would mean every Democrat on this committee.
“S.1 prevents states from asking voters for identification even if a state currently allows it.
It allows paid campaign operatives to fan out across a community and collect ballots. They can collect ballots from you, from your neighbors, from even vulnerable voters like seniors at nursing homes.
“Ballot harvesting is ripe for exploitation. In fact, those of us in the Senate watched across the building just a year ago when we saw a recent North Carolina election where ballots were altered and mishandled, requiring a new election to be held.
“In addition to undermining voter identification and allowing complete strangers to take your ballot, S.1 prevents your states from maintaining an accurate list of eligible voters.
“Voter rolls are the foundation of election administration. Accurate lists mean that eligible voters are able to cast a ballot, that election officials know who has voted and who hasn’t, and that the voter check-in process at polling places is more efficient and quick.
“Think about this for one moment, especially in our current environment. As our country comes out of a pandemic, people are selling their current homes, they’re moving at rates faster than they have before. Sometimes they’re moving across town, sometimes to a new city or state.
“Should the voter rolls reflect who can legally vote in your state, in your county or in your precinct? The Democratic Party thinks it is wrong to allow states to verify who is still eligible to vote and who is no longer eligible to vote, resulting in the potential for voting by ineligible voters, by double voting by voters, or, let’s take this to a specific level, or in maybe a state representative race where a state representative is elected by a handful of votes only to find out later that a dozen people voted who weren’t legally eligible to vote in that district. That not only disadvantaged that candidate but every voter who voted legally in that election.
“The right to vote is a bedrock principle in our democracy. The right to vote wherever you want to is not a bedrock principle in our democracy.
“How is anyone served best by this federal mandate? How does this make our elections more secure or bolster voter confidence in election outcomes?
“We will likely hear from supporters of this bill that there is no widespread fraud in elections, but that begs the question of what level of cheating and fraud is acceptable to the cosponsors? Is one election altered by cheating and fraud acceptable? Two elections acceptable? Ten elections acceptable? What point do we no longer want to worry about whether there’s fraud in the elections or whether people who are voting are actually people who should be voting and legally are voters in that district.
“This bill prohibits states from putting in place reasonable election security measures that have been upheld by our courts, it takes away the guardrails that prevent fraud from happening and ensure that fraud is detected. If this bill becomes law we may never know how much fraud is acceptable for my Democratic friends, because S.1, as I said earlier, makes it easier to cheat and harder to detect.
“If these flaws aren’t enough, imagine the federal government spending $1.8 billion so that all members of the Senate could run for reelection. Depending on the state, a sitting United States Senator would be eligible for as much as $80 million in public funds to run campaigns.
“Because this legislation is developed without input from Republicans, my colleagues and I have filed amendments to answer our concerns and address our concerns.
“As I mentioned earlier, I will now ask Senator Klobuchar four questions about the process that the Rules Committee will follow today.
“First question, Senator, would be: does the Chairwoman agree that Rule 15 of our committee rules presents the casting of votes by proxy for amendments and other matters except for the motion to report legislation?
“Thank you for that answer, Chairwoman. Do you agree that, should one of our colleagues appeal a decision of the Chair, the proper question to put to a vote is: “Shall the decision of the Chair stand as the judgment of the Committee?” This phrasing, by the way, is based off of current Senate floor practices as written in the Senate procedures.
“That appears to me to be at variance with the current Senate floor practice, which would stand even in an equally divided Senate. Senate rules right here before me would suggest that you phrase that question differently.
“Let me ask another question, Chairwoman. Will our colleagues have the opportunity to offer all amendments that comply with the committee’s rules?
“I assume since we are putting that on the record that would be the standard for the committee in the future when our side was in control as well.
“Will the chair allow our colleagues to fully debate amendments until no one seeks recognition on an amendment?
“Well, I hope that the dilatory tactics would not be seen as not letting every member that wants to speak on an amendment speak on that amendment.”