What is the No. 1 priority of every politician? If you guessed, “getting reelected in perpetuity,” give yourself an A. That’s why the Democrats’ first legislative priority — literally H.R. 1 and S. 1 — is to protect their new congressional majorities with a bristling defensive perimeter as high and impenetrable as the heavily guarded metal fence that recently surrounded the U.S. Capitol.
Start with congressional redistricting. Democrats spent half a billion dollars trying to flip state legislatures in 2020, with the goal of running the table on redistricting. But their ballyhooed “Flip ‘Em All” campaign failed to flip a single state chamber, leaving Democrats with control of the redistricting pen for just 17 percent of seats. No problem: S. 1 would rip redistricting away from state legislatures and hand the job to “nonpartisan” commissions that Democrats have previously manipulated to produce more favorable district lines. If you can’t win at the ballot box, just steal it by federal law.
S. 1 also dictates one-size-fits-all election rules in all 50 states and eviscerates time-tested safeguards like voter ID requirements, periodic updates of voter files, and restrictions on fraud-prone ballot harvesting. Democrats claim they just want to prevent “voter suppression.” Yet voter turnout has been rising steadily even before the mail-in ballot blowout of 2020. So why weaken election safeguards on a national scale? If you can’t verify voters’ identities, clean up voter files or prevent ballot harvesters from dropping off satchels of questionable ballots, not only will there be huge opportunities for election fraud, but there will be no way to detect it.
Another way S. 1 protects Congress’ new management is by insulating incumbents from accountability for their legislative actions. Today, issue advocacy groups can criticize elected officials on policy and urge them to change course without jeopardizing their tax status or donor confidentiality. Under S. 1, however, these same groups may risk having their donors dumped on the public file and exposed to the cancel culture if they ran even a single ad that appeared to “promote, attack, support or oppose” a member of Congress. The American Civil Liberties Union has said that such broad language would “unconstitutionally chill the speech of issue advocacy groups” and invade the “vital associational privacy rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
If that’s not enough protection for the House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPhotos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level MORE (D-Calif.)/Senate Majority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerHospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level Progressive groups urge Schumer to prevent further cuts to T plan MORE (D-N.Y.) majorities, the razor wire on top of S. 1’s metal fence is a weaponized Federal Election Commission that would no longer be politically neutral and that Democrats would have an outsized role in shaping. The bill would empower the agency to launch wide-ranging investigations without first finding a “reason to believe” that a violation had occurred, as required by current law. Candidates and groups could be punished with invasive discovery and sky-high legal bills, just because the FEC’s new management didn’t like their politics.
Lastly, S. 1 would hand politicians government-funded “stimmy” checks matching their low-dollar contributions on a 6:1 basis. In the 2020 election cycle, the Democrats’ low-dollar online platform ActBlue raised $5.1 billion; the GOP’s online startup WinRed raised $2.1 billion. Let’s assume both platforms raised half their money in donations of $200 or less (the threshold to qualify for S. 1’s match). Had S. 1 been in place in 2020, ActBlue candidates would have gotten an extra $15.3 billion in federal cash, compared to $6.3 billion for Republicans. Democrats worried about WinRed’s rapid growth would have a government-guaranteed escalator to keep them far ahead of the GOP for years to come.
With all these government goodies and regulatory protections, it’s no wonder H.R. 1/S. 1 has become the Democrats’ legislative obsession — to the point of calling for an end to the filibuster to pass it. They say their real motive is to stop state election reforms, such as Georgia’s new election security law, which they argue are a new form of “Jim Crow.” In reality, the vast majority of state-level reforms involve widely popular measures such as voter ID requirements that have been proven effective and minimally burdensome on voters. If there are legitimate voting rights abuses, the best way to stop them is by challenging them in court — not by forcing an 818-page partisan power grab on every state in the country.
Steven Law is CEO of the Senate Leadership Fund.