Remember when the Biden presidency was brand new and Democrats in the House and Senate proposed a sweeping, $6 trillion package to rebuild our social safety net, cut drug prices, upgrade our infrastructure, rescue our students and elderly, and save the environment?
As it was moving forward, a small group of Republicans and Democrats who call themselves the “corporate problem solvers caucus,” told us that if they could just peel off the parts that involved actual physical construction of infrastructure into a separate bill, they’d get it going right away without having to worry about the filibuster.
The Democrats in the group promised to vote for the remainder of the legislation, now called Build Back Better, while at the same time they were working with their Republican colleagues to require that every penny in the “bipartisan infrastructure” bill be run through for-profit donor corporations via so-called “public-private partnerships.”
Progressives in the House tried to keep the two bills together so the “problem solver” Democrats like Manchin & Sinema couldn’t drop Build Back Better, a valiant effort that required enormous guts and determination: Pramila Jayapal and the Progressive Caucus led the effort.
Toward the end, though, they had to let the “bipartisan infrastructure” bill go to the Senate after Biden was promised by the “corporate problem solver” Democrats that they’d vote for Build Back Better after just the “smallest” of tweaks.
Then we learned that Manchin and Sinema in the Senate, and Gottheimer, Schrader and a few others in the House, had all lied to their leadership. They had no intention of passing the complete bigger bill, which would have reduced profits for Big Pharma, Big Insurance and a half-dozen other industries that regularly and legally bribe those legislators who have their hands out.
By separating the legislation, the “problem solvers” have, for the moment, effectively killed President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. Get ready for Act Two. Only this time they’re going after voting rights.
Following Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, it’s now obvious that we have a genuine crisis around the way we select a president, one that can be exploited by a politician committed to destroying democracy.
There are three solid pieces of legislation to insure voting rights and the integrity of the voting process — the For The People Act (HR 1), the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Freedom To Vote Act.
All three have passed the House of Representatives and are only held up by a 100% Republican filibuster in the Senate. That filibuster can only be broken by ten Republicans giving in (not going to happen: the entire GOP is committed to voter suppression, dark money, and gerrymandering) or by a change to the filibuster in the Senate’s rules (which takes 50 votes plus the VP).
The For The People Act is the most expansive of the three, regulating dark money in politics and bringing back publicly funded elections; as such it’s the most-hated by Republicans and rightwing billionaires.
The watered-down version, the Freedom To Vote Act, is even co-sponsored by Joe Manchin, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act has the moral power of the nation’s memory and admiration of civil rights giant John Lewis behind it.
Therefore, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer pushed for a vote to change the Senate rules to allow the two bills to move past the filibuster and become law. And we need them both: even though the Freedom To Vote Act is somewhat watered down, it still accomplishes essential and important things.
But none of these bills address the problem of a renegade VP unilaterally taking onto themselves the power to overturn the vote of the Electoral College. Or to throw that vote to the House, where the party that controls the most states will make the decision as to who is the next president.
That is mostly made possible by a piece of legislation passed in the wake of the election of 1876, when Democrat Sam Tilden won the majority of the popular vote and the majority of Electoral College votes, but because 4 states had submitted “dueling slates of electors” the election got thrown to the House which made Republican Rutherford B. Hayes president. That post-1876-election law is called The Electoral Count Act of 1887.
Two years ago, before the 2020 election, I published an article pointing out that a Republican friend in DC had told me on the QT that “Trump and his people are planning an 1876 strategy” that involved mobilizing the Electoral Count Act. While my warnings were largely ignored (and even ridiculed), it turns out that’s exactly what they were up to.
Now that it’s obvious that was their plan — and Trump or a similarly inclined wannabee dictator could try it again — both Democrats and a few Republicans have been saying that the Electoral Count Act needs to be fixed. And it does.
Enter the old okey doke.
Both Mitch McConnell and Joe Manchin are now making noises about reforming the Electoral Count Act, just like they were talking about the “bipartisan infrastructure” legislation last year.
And, just as night follows day, you can bet that they’ll put it up for a vote and then, after it passes, wipe their hands clean of these other three necessary pieces of election reform legislation.
Just as holding the “bipartisan infrastructure” and the Build Back Better bills together was key to getting the latter passed (and failed when they were separated), Democrats can’t let Manchin, Sinema, McConnell and the “corporate problem solvers” in the House get away with a second Lucy-and-the-football stunt.
Particularly with voting rights.
Seniors not getting eyeglasses or diabetics getting price-gouged on insulin are all bad and it’s a shame they’ve so far been screwed by these “problem solvers.”
But they don’t signal the death of our republic. The failure to pass meaningful voting rights legislation almost certainly will.
Already right wing groups and media are talking about the “solution” to the nation’s “voting problems” is to “fix” the Electoral Count Act while abandoning all the other voting rights legislation.
We can’t let them get away with another scam, this time one that may well shatter American democracy for all time.
Fixes to the Electoral Count Act must be added into the Freedom To Vote legislation, rather than presented as a standalone bill.
Call your two senators and your member of the House to let them know your thoughts on this. The number for the Capitol switchboard, which will connect you to the offices of any member of Congress, is 202-224-3121.
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© Thom Hartmann, used with permission. Originally published on The Hartmann Report as Act Two: The Apocalyptic Plot to Go After Voting Rights
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