U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the political theater Democrats are engaging in, including hyperbolic statements from the president, false narratives from the White House, and the ongoing antics from Texas state legislators, as they double down on their commitment to pass a partisan federal takeover of state election laws. Thune also stressed the dangers of the government getting involved in censorship of American citizens on social media platforms.
Thune’s speech (as prepared for delivery) below:
“Well, Mr. President, it’s been all political theater all the time lately as Democrats attempt to manufacture a crisis that will allow them to pass their partisan federal takeover of state election law.
“There was President Biden’s overwrought speech in Philadelphia last week warning that election laws being passed in various states are, quote, “the most dangerous threat to voting and the integrity of free and fair elections in our history.”
“Yes, in our nation’s history.
“Apparently post-Civil War voter suppression laws and poll taxes and other atrocities don’t hold a candle to what’s happening today in places like Georgia, where – the horror! – only election officials will be able to hand out water to those in line at the polls.
“Then of course there were Texas Democrats’ antics as they flew to Washington via private jet to shut down the Texas legislature and prevent election legislation from being passed.
“And Senate Democrats’ field hearing in Georgia yesterday to highlight the supposed horrors of Georgia’s mainstream election law.
“Mr. President, in his speech last week, President Biden mentioned stopping the spread of disinformation.
“An ironic statement, Mr. President, when Democrats are engaging in one of the most massive campaigns of disinformation we’ve ever seen.
“Because let’s be very clear, Mr. President.
“The narrative Democrats are peddling – that states are engaging in a massive campaign of voter suppression – is simply false.
“In other years, I doubt whether any of the state voting laws that have been passed would be more than a blip in the national news – because they are nothing more than ordinary, mainstream updates to state voting guidelines.
“The Georgia law which has provoked so much Democrat hysteria is not only squarely in the mainstream when it comes to state election laws, but is actually in some ways more permissive than voting laws in some Democrat-led states.
“A piece in the New York Times – hardly a newspaper that carries water for Republicans – concluded that the voting provisions of the Georgia law are, quote, ‘unlikely to significantly affect turnout or Democratic chances.’
“In fact, the piece notes, Georgia’s law could, and I quote, ‘plausibly even increase turnout.’
“Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker column noted, quote, ‘The law does not put up roadblocks to Black Americans registering to vote.’
‘And yet Democrats have repeatedly asked us to believe that this law is, quote, “Jim Crow on steroids” and part of “the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War.’
“That’s right – since the Civil War.
“Apparently segregation and the horrors of Jim Crow are as nothing compared to Georgia’s adjustment of its regulations on no-excuse absentee voting – which isn’t even allowed in some Democrat-led states like New York.
“It’s almost comical, Mr. President.
“Except that it’s not.
“Because there is nothing funny about Democrats irresponsibly evoking the horrors of Jim Crow to convince Americans that reasonable reforms to election laws are really a dastardly plot to suppress votes.
“There is nothing amusing about Democrats attempting to deceive the American people in order to pass their election legislation.
“Because that is exactly what Democrats are doing.
“Democrats have been determined to pass H.R. 1 – their federal takeover of state election law – since 2019.
“Back in 2019, of course, they told us we needed it because our democracy was broken.
“But then the 2020 elections happened, and lo and behold, Democrats won, and all of a sudden our democracy was working fine.
“But Democrats still want to pass H.R. 1, because – as both the speaker of the House and the House Democrat whip have openly admitted – they think it will improve their electoral chances.
“And so they have manufactured a crisis in the hope of convincing the American people of the need to pass Democrats’ legislation.
“Mr. President, there’s a reason that Senate Democrats haven’t managed to pass H.R. 1 so far – and that is because it is a terrible bill.
“The bill would seize power from states when it comes to regulating and administering elections – an authority states have held since the founding.
“It would implement public funding of political campaigns, which would mean that billions of government dollars – money that belongs to the taxpayer – would go to funding yard signs and attack ads.
“It would impose onerous new requirements and restrictions on political speech.
“It would open up private Americans to retaliation and intimidation simply for making a donation to support a cause they believe in.
“It would effectively eliminate states’ voter ID requirements.
“It would politicize the IRS by allowing the IRS to consider organizations’ beliefs when deciding whether or not to grant them tax-exempt status.
“And the list goes on.
“No less an organization than the American Civil Liberties union opposed – opposed – H.R. 1 in the last Congress because the bill would, and I quote, ‘unconstitutionally burden speech and associational rights.’
“Let me just repeat that.
“The American Civil Liberties Union opposed this legislation because it would ‘unconstitutionally burden speech and associational rights.’
“Mr. President, in his speech last week, President Biden expressed concern about states like Georgia ‘moving from independent election administrators who work for the people to polarized state legislatures and partisan actors who work for political parties.’
“It made me wonder if the president even knows what’s in H.R. 1.
“Because H.R. 1 would make the Federal Election Commission – the primary enforcer of election law in this country – into a partisan body.
“Instead of an independent commission, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, the FEC would become, to borrow the president’s words, a partisan actor that works for political parties.
“If the president is concerned about independent election administrators becoming partisan actors, perhaps he should take a look at revising his party’s legislation.
“Mr. President, since they’ve so far been unable to get their partisan election takeover through the Senate, Democrats are now threatening to include election measures in the partisan tax and spending bill they’re planning to force through Congress using rules which allow them to evade objections from the Senate minority.
“Their idea is to provide financial incentives for states to adopt Democrats’ preferred election standards.
“I suspect it’s an abuse of Senate budget rules that will hopefully not make it through the legislative process.
“But it’s another disturbing sign of how committed Democrats are to shoving through their partisan election measure.
“For the sake of our democracy, let’s hope they’ll continue to be unsuccessful.
“Mr. President, while I’m mentioning free speech – and troubling narratives coming from the White House – I want to mention the White House press secretary’s comments last week.
“The press secretary noted that the Biden administration is, quote, ‘flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation’ and later stated that if individuals are banned on one social media platform, they should be banned on all platforms.
“Now, there’s no question that private companies have the right to moderate activity and content on their platforms – although for the sake of the free exchange of ideas and a culture of freedom of speech, they should be very transparent, principled, and accountable about doing so.
“We all remember the backpedaling that recently occurred when media and social media realized that they might have too hastily censored the theory that the coronavirus originated in a Wuhan lab.
“But while private companies have a right to police information on their sites, the government cannot be in the business of colluding with social media platforms to censor Americans’ speech.
“And the Biden administration has no business telling Facebook or Twitter whom they should ban from their platforms.
“We condemn governments in other countries, like the Chinese Communist Party, that do exactly this.
“We condemned the Cuban government just last week for shutting down their population’s access to the internet in the face of widespread protests.
“If the government gets into censoring ‘disinformation’ on social media – as compared to, say, terrorist propaganda – where does it end?
“As we are rapidly finding out, ‘disinformation’ tends to mean whatever those with censorship power want it to mean.
“Is the Biden administration going to start pushing social media companies to censor anything that contradicts its narrative on the supposed voting rights crisis?
“Is it going to suggest that anyone defending states’ election laws is spreading misinformation?
“The best way to counter misinformation about life-saving vaccines is not censorship, it’s broadly sharing more persuasive and more accurate information.
“The White House press secretary’s casual admission of a presidential administration actively monitoring Americans and colluding with social media companies to censor information is deeply troubling.
“And I’m concerned that the Biden administration is moving us down the road toward government control of Americans’ speech.
“I’d like to see the White House worrying about its own campaign of disinformation on state voting laws.
“That would be a better use of its time than trampling on freedom of speech by censoring Americans’ activities on social media.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”