This week: House Democrats poised to pass sweeping election reform bill
© Stefani Reynolds

House Democrats are poised to pass a sweeping electoral reform bill — a top policy priority that has emerged as a target for Senate Republicans.

The House is scheduled to vote on the legislation, known as H.R. 1, on Wednesday.

The legislation — spearheaded by John SarbanesJohn Peter Spyros SarbanesThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Progress slow on coronavirus bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Biden VP possible next week; Meadows says relief talks 'miles apart' Pelosi, Democrats press case for mail-in voting amid Trump attacks MORE (D-Md.) with the support of Democratic 236 co-sponsors — aims to expand voting rights through provisions including the creation of automatic voter registration, increased election security by pushing back on foreign threats and making Election Day a national holiday for federal workers.

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Democrats unveiled the legislation on their first day back in control of the House, underscoring its importance to their agenda. Proponents of the bill argue it's necessary to crack down on corruption in upcoming elections.

“Our democracy faces threats from both the inside and outside,” Rep. Dean PhillipsDean PhillipsLeaders call for civility after GOP lawmaker's verbal attack on Ocasio-Cortez House seeks ways to honor John Lewis Cook shifts 20 House districts toward Democrats MORE (D-Minn.) said in a statement. “Nowhere is that more apparent than in digital political communication and advertising. From dark money groups circumventing disclosure requirements, to foreign governments interfering in elections, it is time to update laws to protect our democracy.”

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet New postmaster general overhauls USPS leadership amid probe into mail delays MORE (D-Calif.) added at the press conference announcing the bill that "restoring the people's’ faith in government is really our agenda."

The measure also aims to tackle campaign finance reform by overturning Citizens United, increasing transparency in campaign donations and prohibiting coordination between super PACs and candidates. Portions of the bill appear to be directed specifically at the administration, including a provision requiring the president and vice president to disclose a decade’s worth of their tax returns.

One of the more controversial provisions would create a 6-to-1 federal campaign match on small donations and has been met with strong pushback from Republicans, who argue taxpayer dollars should not be used for campaign purposes.

The GOP is expected to push back on the measure via a motion to recommit which would amend the measure at the eleventh hour on the floor.

“I mean that's such a dangerous bill that there are a lot of opportunities to showcase some of the radical elements like billions of dollars of taxpayer money going to political campaigns and some the voter fraud and things like harvesting provisional ballots are embraced by the Democrats even though they criticized it in North Carolina they embraced it in California,” House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseRepublicans fear disaster in November Gaetz set to endorse primary opponent of fellow Florida GOP lawmaker Hillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video MORE (R-La.) told The Hill.

The party has successfully utilized the procedural tool twice since losing the majority, forcing Democrats to take difficult votes. Pelosi has attempted to crack the whip on moderates from breaking with party lines after Republicans managed to make last-minute changes to a gun bill last week.

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Even if Democrats are able to successfully get the legislation through the House, it’s considered dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal Pelosi, Schumer say White House declined T coronavirus deal COVID-19 bill limiting liability would strike the wrong balance MORE (R-Ky.) has routinely used his daily speeches on the Senate floor to mock the legislation, which he’s nicknamed the “Democrat Politician Protection Act."

In one floor speech he called out a provision that would make Election Day a federal holiday.

“This is the Democrat plan to restore democracy? A brand-new week of paid vacation for every federal employee who would like to hover around while you cast your ballot?” McConnell asked from the Senate floor.

“Just what America needs, another paid holiday and a bunch of government workers being paid to go out and work for I assume ... our colleagues on the other side, on their campaigns,” McConnell added.

Emergency declaration

The Senate appears to have the votes to pass a resolution blocking Trump’s emergency declaration, after Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.) said he couldn’t support the president’s action.

Paul, speaking at a Republican dinner in Kentucky over the weekend, said he couldn’t support giving a president “extra-constitutional” powers.

“I can’t vote to give the president the power to spend money that hasn’t been appropriated by Congress. We may want more money for border security, but Congress didn’t authorize it,” Paul said, according to the Bowling Green Daily News.

Paul elaborated in a Fox News op-ed published on Sunday night that he would vote for the resolution of disapproval once it comes up on the Senate floor.

In addition to Paul, GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsFrom a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns MORE (Alaska) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisFrom a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  Sabato's Crystal Ball shifts Iowa Senate race to 'toss-up,' Georgia toward GOP MORE (N.C.) are expected to support the resolution, which passed the House last week with 13 Republicans supporting it.

The Senate is expected to vote on the measure before lawmakers leave town for a weeklong recess on March 15, but GOP aides predict it’s more likely to come up on the floor next week. McConnell has teed up votes on four nominations this week.

Roughly a dozen GOP senators, including Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerFrom a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The US military has options against China McConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill MORE (R-Colo.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election US intelligence says Russia seeking to 'denigrate' Biden From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters MORE (R-Fla.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense: Air Force general officially becomes first African American service chief | Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure | State Department's special envoy for Iran is departing the Trump administration Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure Trump signs major conservation bill into law MORE (R-Utah), remain undecided on the resolution. McConnell previously floated that Trump would need to veto the resolution if he wants to circumvent Congress, but declined to handicap the outcome of the Senate's vote last week.

“My guess is there would probably be enough votes in the Senate to pass the disapproval … [but] I think we need to have a larger conversation about why Congress would delegate so much of its authority to any president,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCOVID-19 bill limiting liability would strike the wrong balance From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to McConnell who is expected to vote against the resolution of disapproval.

Though the resolution of disapproval isn’t expected to have the votes to override a veto from Trump, some GOP senators are urging him to back down. 

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline Trump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal MORE (R-Tenn.), who has not said how he will vote, warned that Trump was creating a “constitutional crisis” with his emergency declaration to use military construction money to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Alexander, instead, argued that Trump should back down and instead divert more funding from the Pentagon’s counter-drug programs, which would not require an emergency declaration.

“There is a way the president can avoid this dangerous precedent completely: he can use the congressional funding authority he already has to build the 234 miles of wall that he asked Congress to approve in his January 6 letter to the Senate,” Alexander said in a floor speech last week.

Trump has given no indication that he’s going to change his mind, but it wouldn’t be without precedent. Former President George W. Bush declared a national emergency in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina but backed down when Congress threatened to block him.

Cohen

Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen is slated to appear before the House Intelligence Committee again this week to continue his testimony on Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion with the Trump campaign.

“We talked about a lot of things,” Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierIt's past time to be rid of the legacy of Jesse Helms Female lawmakers pressure Facebook to crack down on disinformation targeting women leaders Democrats demand Esper explicitly ban Confederate flag and allow Pride, Native Nations flags MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said following Cohen’s six-hour testimony last Thursday. “We are just now getting into some of the more substantive issues.”

Cohen appeared last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee, House Intelligence Committee and the House Oversight and Reform Committee to testify on a variety of issues.

Cohen is slated to serve a three-year federal prison sentence starting in May after pleading guilty to numerous charges last year.  

Nominations

McConnell has teed up votes on three of Trump’s circuit court picks, as Republicans fill vacancies on the key appeals bench at a record pace.

McConnell, wrapping up the Senate’s work on Thursday, set up votes on Allison Jones Rushing to be a judge on the 4th Circuit, Chad Readler to be a judge on the 6th Circuit and Eric Murphy to be a judge on the 6th Circuit.

Democrats are taking aim at Readler’s nomination in particular, with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPostal Service says it lost .2 billion over three-month period A three-trillion dollar stimulus, but Charles Schumer for renewable energy — leading businesses want to change that Democrats try to force Trump to boost medical supplies production MORE (D-N.Y.) announcing that all Democrats would oppose him during his vote this week.

Readler, who previously worked as an assistant attorney general for the civil division at the Department of Justice, filed a brief last year supporting a lawsuit filed by Texas and other states seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act.

“Any Republican Senator who supports his nomination is supporting the Trump-Republican lawsuit to get rid of pre-existing condition protections and take away health coverage from millions of Americans,” Schumer said on Friday.

Family separation

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to hold a hearing on the administration’s policy for detaining immigrant families along the U.S.-Mexico border after two children died in U.S. custody.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing MORE (R-S.C.) announced last month that he would hold a hearing in the first week of March. The hearing, set for Wednesday, is entitled "Oversight of Customs and Border Protection’s Response to the Smuggling of Persons at the Southern Border."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced in late December that Felipe Gómez Alonzo, an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy, had died in its custody after being hospitalized in New Mexico with flu-like symptoms, high fever and vomiting. A 7-year-old girl, Jakelin Caal Maquin, also died after she was detained along with other migrants who illegally crossed the southern border.

CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan at the time called the deaths "absolutely devastating."

"It’s been over a decade since we’ve had a child die anywhere in our processes," McAleenan told ABC's "This Week."