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Blunt Remarks Ahead of Democrats’ Failed Push to Break Senate Rules, Force Through Election Takeover

January 19, 2022

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), the top Republican on the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, which has jurisdiction over election legislation, delivered the following remarks this evening ahead of the Senate vote on Democrats’ election takeover legislation. Blunt rebutted the false narrative Democrats have used to justify their attempt to federalize elections, outlined the numerous problematic provisions in the 700+ page bill, and reiterated his opposition to scrapping the filibuster to ram this misguided legislation through the Senate. 

Following Are Blunt’s Remarks:

“I’ve been on the floor most of the day today and I think I've heard virtually every speech given. I was reminded again, as the day went on, of really the broad-based talent of people in the Senate. I spent some time a couple of years ago, over the course of about six months, kind of watching individual senators and trying to figure out how they got here. And with only a couple of exceptions, I could figure it out.

“That unique ability to communicate or to explain things in a way that people understood them. Or appeared to just know more than other people knew about things that people knew senators need to know about. And I was reminded again of the tragedy of how little we use that collected talent. There is absolutely no telling what we could do if we would decide as 100 people who figured out how to get to the United States Senate, how we’d work together and solve big problems. And I think we all know where we are today, but I do hope, as Senator Schumer mentioned, that we listened to each other as people expressed different views. Certainly, the Senate would be a better place if we spent more time on the floor listening to each other and talking to each other.

“Now, on this bill, I think we all know where we're headed. In my view, having watched election legislation for a long time, it seems to me that this is just another version of an election bill introduced by Democrats. There's not much new in this bill. Both the Rules Committee where I serve, and the Senate, have already rejected this federal takeover of elections several times this year. Now many of my friends on the other side said, ‘well, why wouldn't Republicans just want to debate this bill?’ I don't think anybody said, ‘why wouldn't the Republicans want to amend this bill,’ because there was no opportunity to do that. You know, we've been on the bill now for several days. Got on the bill, fairly crafty way to get on the bill with a 51-vote vote. Fine with me to be on the bill, but our friends on the other side decided there would be no amendments on this bill. And I think Republicans, from the very start, sensed that this would be a bill where we'd get a yes or no vote on a bill that really would dramatically change how we pursue elections.

“Now, while it has a new name, it's more than 700 pages, it's nearly identical to the Freedom to Vote Act. It's substantially the same as the two versions that couldn't get 50 on that side of the S.1. Very similar to [House] bill H.R. 1, and very similar, frankly, to the election bills that I've been watching for 20 years. And there's always been a different reason to do about the same Democrat-sponsored bill, House and Senate. After [2000], the reason was, well, the equipment is too faulty and we've got to have more federal control of what happens in the states. After 2016, the reason to have a massive election bill was, well, there's just not enough security in state elections, and the federal government has to intervene in some major way. After 2020, even though the federal government didn't intervene in a major way, suddenly the elections were the most secure in the history of the world. Both parties alleged that at one point. And now we need to have this bill because some states are passing legislation that, in most cases, looks at the real outreach that they appropriately did for the pandemic, and thinking in 2021 that the pandemic was over, thinking what do we want to keep of what we did in that outreach, and what do we want to decide we should only do during a pandemic. I haven't found very many places, if any, that couldn’t be easily explained, like postal regulations and other things, where the states have made changes and rolled back their pandemic outreach, don't have more opportunities to vote now than they had in 2018, the last election before they should have done extraordinary things.

“Actually, one lesson we probably taught state legislators here is don't try to do anything to try to meet an immediate moment, because if you try to undo when that moment's past, you will get on what Senator Lankford described as the bad list. He also did a pretty good job of explaining that a lot of states that weren't on the bad list, don't have nearly the opportunities to vote as states that are on the bad list. You know, one of the things – I was an election official for about 20 years, including the secretary of state for a good part of that – and I always thought that the diversity of the system was one of the strengths of the system. I thought, as President Obama did in 2016, that the diversity of the system made it really hard for outsiders or insiders to figure out how they could rig a national election. I still think that.

“This bill undermines really a lot of state voter laws that are pretty popular with voters, and we've seen that expressed even in recent elections in, like, New York City. Prohibiting voter identification for mail ballots would be one of the things that you wouldn't want to do. If you wanted to have mail-in ballots, you would want to be sure where those came from and, frankly, you would want to have an objective standard like your voter ID number or some other number that was uniquely yours, than a subjective standard like how you signed your name when you were 18 as opposed to how you’re signing your name when you're 68. That was one of the changes, by the way, in the Georgia law which should have helped more people than not.

“This bill retains Senate Bill 1’s mandate on ballot drop boxes, federalizes rules for redistricting. I think it chills free speech. Requires felon voting. Now, why would anybody want to be against any of those things? There are reasons, frankly, to be against all of those things, but states make that decision for themselves and in some states it may work very well and others it might not. Of the top sweeping election administration changes in this bill, the S.1 policies in this bill disrupt state efforts to maintain accurate voter rolls. Now, accurate voter rolls were seen as one of the great progressive moves forward so you’d have some sense that the people who voted on Election Day were actually people who were supposed to vote and also important to vote in that district. You know, if you just vote anywhere, and your legislative district where you should have voted was decided by four or five votes and you were one of those four or five, suddenly that's a big disservice to everybody else.

“The bill would send federal money to campaign coffers at the rate of $6 federal dollars for every dollar raised. It even goes so far as to add a second public financing program that would give people $25 in federal funds to contribute to House candidates. Now this 6 to 1 match is only for House candidates. That may not be what the final bill would say if we passed this bill, but it's only for House candidates now, and, of course, this federal money would be eligible to be matched by 6 to 1 other federal dollars. That's a pretty good deal. You give somebody $25 federal dollars and it could be matched with 6 to 1 other federal dollars. This bill sets up a framework that would result in, I think, every congressional district map likely to be drawn by federal courts. How many maps have we seen this time that were drawn by new improvements that the states made that didn't turn out to be (1) any better than the old maps and (2) wound up being drawn by judges?

“The John Lewis Voting Rights Act – a friend of mine, I served with him, I traveled with him, I laughed with him, I liked him a lot, I admired him a lot. The Voting Rights Act was 12 pages when it was introduced in 1965. The John Lewis Voting Rights provisions here, which have a great name, but they are 120 pages. I voted to extend the Voting Rights Act and I’d do it again. And I’d be proud to do it if it was named after John Lewis, but 735 pages? Saying that if we don't vote for that 735 pages somehow we're opposed to the Voting Rights Act? Or opposed to the heroism of John Lewis? I don't think so.

“Since it doesn't have the support to pass under the current Senate rules, the next think we’ll do is attempt to really gut the legislative filibuster to force it through. My Republican colleagues have spoken at length about the consequences of doing that, as has Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema just the other day. The justification rests on really a narrow basis that somehow the protection of the minority no longer matters. The danger of overturning 200 years of election administration by the state. I'm going to resist doing any of the quotes this late in the day that you've heard over and over again of our Democrat friends, who just a couple of years ago were saying – or less than a handful of years ago – how critically important it was that those rules never be changed.

“You know, if Democrats eliminate the 60-vote rule for election legislation, there will soon be no filibuster left. Today, it would be the carveout for the election administration. Three or four weeks ago, it was a carveout for raising the debt limit. The next carveout would be for whatever seems important that day. A carveout won't work. I don't think really anybody here believes that any longer. This would be the first step in just eliminating an important distinction that makes the Senate a place where we have to think about what we do. It eliminates some of the chaos that occurs when you have a party change. In the past two decades, a single party has controlled both chambers of the Congress and the presidency four times, alternating between Democrats and Republicans. The Senate is what has kept the country from wildly going in one direction and back in the other. We don't want to lose that. The disaster for our citizens, the disaster for our economy of not having that sense of having to think about this just a little bit before you head in another direction is what the Senate is all about. I certainly hope my colleagues today will not pass this federal takeover of election laws and will also resist the temptation to change the rules of the Senate, and I yield the floor.”

 



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