Some election administrators who support the ethos of the bill have also quietly grumbled about its sweeping mandates, arguing that some are impossible to overcome. A manager’s amendment put forward by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the chair of the Rules Committee, was introduced to mollify some of those concerns, pushing back some deadlines and broadly granting more leeway to smaller counties. But that amendment failed in a tied vote.
The elections proposal was given the first designation in both chambers — S.1 in the Senate, and H.R. 1 in the House. It passed the House on a near-party line vote in March, after going through the lower chamber in the 116th Congress and dying in the Senate without a vote. President Joe Biden has repeatedly spoken in favor of the bill, calling for Congress to send it to his desk during his first joint address. Republicans, however, have vociferously opposed the bill, and argue it amounts to a “federal takeover” of the U.S. election system.
The bill would also alter the Federal Election Commission, the nation’s chief campaign finance watchdog that is routinely criticized by good government groups as functionally toothless. Among its provisions is the addition of a public financing option that remains controversial among some Democrats on the Hill.
McConnell, in an unusual move, stayed for most of the hearing and offered three amendments. The first amendment would undo the bill’s FEC provisions and cap the tenure for commissioners at 12 years; the second would change its disclosure requirements; and the third would redirect the legislation’s public funding to the opioid epidemic. All three amendments failed in tied votes.
While the vast majority of amendments failed, less than a dozen made it through. Among the amendments the committee approved was a proposal from Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) that would strike a provision in the bill that required members of the military overseas return paper ballots by mail. Another amendment from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) would require a report from the Attorney General on the effect of widespread mail-in voting on service members.