WASHINGTON – Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is so determined to stop a sweeping elections overhaul pushed by congressional Democrats that he will personally argue against it, armed with a stack of amendments at a Senate hearing this week as Democrats advance the bill toward a vote.
It’s a rare role for a party leader but shows the extent to which Republicans are prepared to fight the Democratic priority. The legislation would be the largest overhaul of U.S. elections in a generation and touches on almost every aspect of the electoral process, changes that Democrats argue are even more important now as states impose new voting restrictions after the divisive 2020 election.
What’s typically an hourslong legislative slog could drag into a dayslong showdown starting Tuesday at the Senate Rules Committee, a surprising new venue in the nation’s broader debate over voting rules.
The action in Congress comes as states including Georgia, Florida, Arizona and Texas are pushing new voting rules, spurred by former President Donald Trump’s false claims about election fraud after his 2020 loss. Democrats are on defense, having been unable to halt the onslaught of new state rules that will take months or years to litigate in court. Republicans argue the new state rules are needed to clamp down on mail ballots and other methods that became popular during the pandemic, but critics warn the states are seeking to reduce voter access, particularly for Black voters, ushering in a new Jim Crow era for the 21st century.
There was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Trump’s claims were rejected by Republican and Democratic election officials in state after state, by U.S. cybersecurity officials and by courts up to the U.S. Supreme Court. And his attorney general at the time said there was no evidence of fraud that could change the election outcome.
McConnell is expected to be an “active” participant in Tuesday’s session to debate and amend the voting bill, his office said. Stopping the bill is his “priority,” as Republicans argue the legislation represents a Democratic power grab and federal overreach into state administration of elections.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is also expected to stop in at the Rules panel meeting to add his weight to the debate.
On Monday, Schumer asked whether Republicans would act in good faith or further the spread of Trump's “big lie” about the 2020 election.