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Thune: Democrats Push Radical Federal Takeover Agenda

“South Dakota election officials are doing just fine without having their every move dictated by Washington bureaucrats.”

September 22, 2021

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor about legislation that would restrict states’ rights and grow the power of the federal government. Thune highlighted how Democrats’ misguided proposals would put the federal government in charge of elections and eliminate states’ pro-life laws.


Thune’s remarks (as prepared for delivery):


“Mr. President, federal takeovers are being discussed in both the House and the Senate this week.


“The Democrat leader has announced that the Senate will once again be taking up legislation to put the federal government – instead of states – in charge of elections.


“Meanwhile, over in the House, representatives are expected to vote on legislation to eliminate essentially all state restrictions on abortion – no matter how modest or widely supported.  


“So what’s up with the federal takeovers?


“Well, Democrats have been pushing election legislation – H.R. 1, the “For the People Act” – for multiple years now.


“This radical legislation would provide for a massive federal takeover of our electoral system, chill free speech, and turn the Federal Election Commission – the primary enforcer of election law in this country – into a partisan body, among other dangerous measures.


“And the reason for this radical legislation?


“Well, as even some Democrats have implicitly admitted, this legislation is designed to make it easier for Democrats to win elections.


“Fast forward to last week.


“With H.R. 1 unable to pass the Senate, some Democrats produced a modified version of this legislation – the For the People Act “Lite.”


“And while I appreciate their efforts, unfortunately, as the Republican leader said yesterday morning, “This latest version is only a compromise in the sense that the center-left compromised with the far left.”


“Or as the Wall Street Journal editorial board put it this morning, “Calling this bill slimmed down … is like touting your healthy choices after you order a Diet Coke with four Big Macs.”


“The For the People Act “Lite” would still impose troubling new burdens on free speech.


“It would still undermine state voter ID laws.


“It would still spend taxpayer dollars on political campaigns.


“It would still make it easier for those here illegally to vote.


“And, most of all, it would still put Washington, not state governments, in charge of elections – for no reason at all.


“Mr. President, let’s be clear.


“There is absolutely zero reason to have the federal government start dictating states’ election policies.


“Zero reason.


“There is no systemic problem with state election laws.


“And state election officials do not need Washington bureaucrats dictating how many days of early voting they should offer, or how they should manage mail-in ballots.


“This bill, like its parent H.R. 1, is a solution in search of a crisis.


“States have been doing a fine job running elections.


“Even Democrats have sort of had to admit that, given the huge voter turnout in the last election and the fact that Democrats won – albeit by the slimmest of margins.


“So now that they can no longer tell us that our electoral system is broken, Democrats are telling us that we need election legislation like this because states are passing legislation that will – Democrats claim – threaten election access.   




“It’s just another attempt to manufacture a crisis that will justify passing H.R. 1 or some variant.


“Democrats are pushing election legislation for one simple reason: because they think it will improve their chances in future elections.


“That is not a good reason to bring up election legislation.


“And I will continue to oppose any federal takeover of elections.


“South Dakota election officials are doing just fine without having their every move dictated by Washington bureaucrats.


“Meanwhile, Mr. President, over in the House, members are expected to consider legislation that would, as I said, preempt virtually all state restrictions on abortion.


“Democrats are calling the bill the Women’s Health Protection Act. 


“A more accurate name might be the Abortion on Demand Act, or we could simply refer to it as what it is – probably the most anti-life legislation ever to be considered in the United States Congress.


“This bill would eliminate pretty much any and every abortion restriction in every state across the country. 


“Parental notification laws, informed consent laws – measures adopted by states and upheld by the Supreme Court – would disappear under Democrats’ legislation.


“The bill would also prevent states from restricting any particular method of abortion – no matter how barbaric the method.


“And the bill would make it essentially impossible to impose any meaningful restrictions at all on abortion in any stage of pregnancy, including after the point of fetal viability, when the baby can survive outside its mother.


“The bill would also jeopardize doctors’ and nurses’ right to refuse to participate in abortions – and specifically prevent them from having recourse under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect their conscience rights.


“And it would put measures in place to ensure that any state pro-life law would face an uphill climb in the courtroom. 


“In short, this legislation would make abortion on demand, at any time, for essentially any reason, the law of the land.  


“Mr. President, I hope – I really hope – that during debate on this measure, Democrats are not going to pretend that their proposed abortion law somehow represents the prevailing sentiment of the country.


“Because it doesn’t.


“The vast majority of Americans believe that there should be at least some restrictions on abortion.


“Gallup has been polling on abortion for decades, and in all that time the percentage of Americans who believe abortion should be legal under any circumstance has always remained under 35 percent.


“In fact, for most of the past several decades that number has remained squarely under 30 percent.


“A strong majority of Americans support at least some restrictions on abortion.


“Furthermore, an Associated Press poll from this June found that 65 percent of Americans believe that abortion should generally be illegal in the second trimester – or from about 13 weeks of pregnancy – while a whopping 80 percent of Americans believe that abortion should generally be illegal in the third trimester.


“And it’s not surprising.


“Americans aren’t dumb, Mr. President.


“And thanks to ultrasounds and scientific advances and plain old common sense, they know just how ridiculous it is to claim that unborn children are just blobs of tissue.


“Most people are well aware that an unborn baby with its own heartbeat and fingers and toes and DNA is in fact not a blob of tissue, but a human being.


“And most people believe that human beings deserve to be protected.


“Even when they’re small and weak and vulnerable.


“Especially when they’re small and weak and vulnerable.


“And so it doesn’t surprise me in the least that 80 percent of the American people think abortion should generally be illegal in the third trimester.


“Because I can’t imagine anyone being comfortable with the idea of killing a baby who is not only, like any unborn baby, a human being worthy of protection, but is actually old enough to survive outside his or her mother.  


“So, Mr. President, I really, really hope that Democrats are not going to pretend that they’re representing the American people with this appalling legislation.


“They’re not representing the American people.


“They’re representing the radical abortion lobby.


“And the radical abortion lobby is terrified that, as it well knows, it does not have a majority of the American people on its side.


“And so it’s relying on its Democrat allies to push for perhaps the most radical pro-abortion legislation ever considered.


“Mr. President, the American people are better than this.


“And I would hope that the Democrat Party would be better than this.


“The Democrat Party has historically portrayed itself as the defender of the little guy.


“It’s unfortunate that that doesn’t extend to the littlest guys and girls among us – the unborn babies in danger of dying from abortion.


“There are hundreds of thousands of abortions in the United States every year.


“That’s hundreds of thousands of innocent human lives lost.


“Do we really need to remove even the most modest restrictions on abortion?


“Mr. President, while unfortunately the vast majority of the Democrat Party is in the pocket of the radical abortion lobby, I hope that there are at least some House Democrats out there who aren’t comfortable with this bill and the Democrat Party’s extreme abortion politics.


“And I hope that these Democrats will stand up and oppose their party’s abortion-on-demand legislation.


“This anti-life legislation is an abomination.


“And it should never make it out of the House of Representatives.


“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”