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U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the Democrats’ latest attempt to change longstanding Senate rules to enable a partisan federal takeover of elections. Thune noted that eliminating the legislative filibuster would strip away one of the most significant minority party protections in our system of government.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, later today President Biden will be speaking in Georgia as part of Democrats’ effort to convince the American people that voting rights are under attack so that they can justify their attempt to abolish the Senate filibuster to pass their partisan election legislation.
“A noted Democrat operative once famously said that you should never let a good crisis go to waste.
“He meant, of course, that a crisis could give you the opportunity to push things through that you might not be able to get done in the ordinary course of things.
“It’s a lesson Democrats have learned well.
“Last March, for example, Democrats used the cover of the COVID crisis to pass a so-called COVID relief bill that had very little to do with COVID relief and a lot to do with expanding the role of government and providing payoffs to Democrat constituencies.
“But unfortunately for Democrats, when it comes to their election legislation, there is no crisis for Democrats to exploit.
“And so Democrats have spent the past year busily trying to create one.
“I say the past year, but Democrats have actually been claiming there’s a voting crisis for much longer.
“The source of the election bill we’ll likely vote on this week is H.R. 1 – election legislation first introduced by Democrats back in 2019.
“Back then Democrats told us our election system was broken and that we needed this bill to fix it.
“After all, a Republican had won the last presidential election and beat a favored Democrat candidate.
“Surely that meant our system was in trouble.
“But then the 2020 elections came along, and Democrats won the presidency and a majority – albeit a narrow majority – in both houses of Congress.
“Voter turnout was massive, and a Pew Research Center poll found that 94 percent of people found it easy to vote.
“So all of a sudden it was pretty difficult for Democrats to claim that our system was broken.
“But they still wanted to pass their election legislation.
“So they came up with a new crisis.
“In 2021, a number of states passed updates to their voting laws – partly because of the challenges and special circumstances that arose as a result of the pandemic.
“And so Democrats decided that these commonsense, mainstream updates represented an unprecedented attack on voting rights.
“And Georgia, which was one of the first to enact voting legislation, has become the poster child for Democrats’ campaign to convince Americans that their voting rights are in danger.
“So what terrible voter suppression measures are states imposing?
“Well, one provision of the Georgia law that has come in for a lot of Democrat outrage is its measure forbidding partisan political organizations from providing individuals with food or water within 150 feet of a polling place.
“Apparently preventing partisan political organizations from providing lunch to voters threatens the stability of our entire democracy.
“Now, nothing in Georgia’s law prevents outside groups from providing food and water to individuals outside the 150-foot radius.
“And Georgia’s law explicitly allows nonpartisan election workers – as opposed to political groups – to make water available to voters.
“And, of course, I’m pretty sure any voter can bring his or her own food and water.
“But none of that has prevented Democrats from suggesting that rules about food and water distribution at polling places represent a grave threat to voting rights.
“Ironically, the state of New York has a similar provision in its election law prohibiting any refreshment or provision to a voter at a polling place, except if the retail value of what is given is less than one dollar, and the person or entity providing it is not identified.
“Yet I don’t see the Democrats traveling to New York to decry the threat to democracy posed by the New York legislature.
“Mr. President, after Georgia passed its voting law, President Biden got up and attacked the law for supposedly ending voting early to prevent working people from voting.
“He made that accusation repeatedly.
“There was exactly zero truth to his claim.
“In fact, as the Washington Post’s Fact Checker column pointed out, quote, ‘experts say the net effect of the new early-voting rules was to expand the opportunities to vote for most Georgians, not limit them.’
“Let me just repeat that, Mr. President.
“‘[E]xperts say the net effect of the new early-voting rules was to expand the opportunities to vote for most Georgians, not limit them.’
“The Fact Checker gave the president four Pinocchios – a rating the column reserves for, quote, ‘whoppers’ – for his false claim that the law was designed to keep working Americans from voting.
“I’d also like to point out that not only is Georgia’s election reform law thoroughly mainstream, Georgia’s laws are actually more permissive in some respects than voting laws in some Democrat states.
“Georgia offers no-excuse absentee voting.
“The Democrat leader’s home state does not.
“In fact, voters in the Democrat leader’s home state actually just rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed no-excuse absentee voting.
“I guess the Democrat leader thinks those voters are trying to destroy our democracy.
“Georgia also has way more days of early voting than the Democrat leader’s home state.
“So does Arizona – another state that has come under fire from Democrats for updating its election laws.
“And yet red states, according to Democrats, are the states attempting to suppress votes.
“It’s also important to note that the Georgia law was written to address concerns from Republican and Democrat voters, including concerns raised by Stacey Abrams-affiliated groups over the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election.
“Mr. President, there is no question we should make voting easy and accessible.
“But there are a lot of different ways to do that.
“And states can have different requirements and still all offer ample opportunities to vote.
“Also, I think my Democrat friends need a little perspective check.
“There are countries where individuals would consider it a privilege to be able to stand in line to vote in a free election – even if someone didn’t provide them with food and water.
“Of course no one wants voters to have to stand in long lines – and in fact Georgia’s election law will make it less likely that they have to.
“But Democrats’ dramatic claims that a long line or the lack of a drop box or, say, nine as opposed to 10 days of early voting somehow threaten the right to vote in this country are nothing short of absurd.
“I have faith that Americans are capable of voting even without the Democrat Party providing them with a boxed lunch.
“Mr. President, there is no election crisis in this country.
“What there is is a partisan Democrat election bill that Democrats have wanted to pass since long before the Georgia legislature reformed its election laws because they think it will give them an advantage in future elections.
“And you don’t have to take my word for it.
“More than one Democrat has openly admitted that Democrats want to pass a federal election takeover because they think it will give their party an advantage in the next election.
“Mr. President, if Democrats were really concerned about the security of our democracy and the integrity of our elections – if they really cared about affirming Americans’ faith in our electoral system – they would not be seeking to break the Senate rules to pass a totally partisan election bill on a totally partisan basis.
“A partisan federal election takeover is not going to do anything to strengthen Americans’ faith in our system.
“On the contrary, it will sow mistrust and division and heighten partisanship.
“Instead of changing the rules to gain an advantage in the next election, I’d suggest that my Democrat colleagues instead try coming up with an agenda that would appeal to a broad majority of Americans – perhaps starting with a plan to address the inflation crisis Democrats helped create.
“That would be a far better use of their time than undermining faith in our electoral system with a partisan rules change and a partisan federal takeover of elections.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”