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Mitch McConnell's blockade of House laws is about to face the toughest test

McConnell was the unchanging object: he frustrated Democrats in the House by systematically blocking Senate votes on the ever-growing list of bills they passed, ranging from gun control fire to additional protections for patients with pre-existing health conditions.

But the McConnell blockade faces a new challenge as the House looks at a series of bills to fight foreign interference in the 2020 elections. These measures, which aim to protect US institutions fundamental to foreign subversion, might be more difficult to present by the Kentucky Republican as a political bias than the bills passed by the House so far. And that could make it an irresistible force that weighs on his overall strategy to prevent any legislation from the House.

"This is perhaps the problem that is of concern to the public, where the problem arises and where the obstruction lies," said Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland, one of the key authors of the House Election Security Program. "The public, and I understand it, paints everything with a broad brush and says that Washington is dysfunctional, here is a case study that will interest them a lot, it shows that … the problem does not come from Washington, the problem does not matter. not Congress, but Mitch McConnell, who will not bring any of these things to the Senate. "

McConnell's decision to methodically ban any consideration of one of the House's priorities already appears as a decisive bet in the GOP's efforts to maintain its majority in the Senate during the election of the House of Commons. 39 next year. He looked at his role as an obstacle, describing a Republican-controlled Senate as the last line of defense against a "socialist agenda" Democrat and calling himself the "Grim Reaper" for its legislative projects.

"I am indeed the" Grim Reaper "with regard to the socialist agenda that opened in the House with overwhelming democratic support and sent it to America," he said. he said last week in an interview with Fox News Channel. "What could turn us into a country we have never been." The McConnell campaign even provides contributors with T-shirts with a gravestone for "socialism" on the front and a similar quote highlighting his determination to block the House program on the back.

The electoral impact of McConnell's strategy will likely be determined by the party that will successfully define the program that it obstructs.

In his arguments, McConnell focuses on the priorities of the left wing of House Democrats, particularly the Green New Deal and a single payer health system.

"He talks about it almost every time he can," says Josh Holmes, McConnell's former chief of staff. "He is comfortable enough to be opposed to health care plans that terminate private health insurance or environmental contracts that close your electricity supplier."

But neither single-payer health care nor the Green New Deal, which Republicans are certain to represent as an unprecedented intrusion of government into the economy, are likely to be voted in the House, let alone be voted before 2020.

Instead, the bill that the House passed this year – and that McConnell is blocking – has put more emphasis on expressions of social values ​​and distorted economic concerns, such as strengthening the Affordable Care Act and making the high costs of prescription drugs. Many of these measures benefit from overwhelming public support in surveys.

Popular legislation blocked

The House, for example, passed a law in early June that gives legal status to millions of "Dreamers" potentially brought into the country illegally when they were children. In a Fox News poll released Sunday, nearly three-quarters of Americans said they supported the legal status of these young people.
In May, the House passed the "Equality Act", which would prohibit discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. An April poll by the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute also revealed that nearly three-quarters of Americans favored legislation banning such discrimination.
Also in May, the House passed a bill to block the regulatory measures taken by the Trump administration which dilute the protections of the Affordable Care Act for patients with pre-existing medical conditions. In a survey conducted in April by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-partisan organization, about two-thirds of Americans said it was important that health insurers be required to sell coverage to consumers with pre-existing health problems and not to charge them more.
Polls recorded the most categorical public support for legislation passed by the House in February to require universal background checks on all firearms sales. In a nationwide survey conducted earlier this year by Quinnipiac University, 93% of Americans, including 89% of Republicans and 87% of gun owners, said they supported such a requirement.
Other measures adopted by the House this year include the Violence Against Women Act, a law promoting greater gender equality in compensation, and comprehensive legislation to expand the franchise and impose new ethical guidelines in Washington. The Democratic House aides are confident that by the 2020 elections, they will also pass a law creating a national minimum wage of $ 15, expanding family subsidies for the purchase of insurance. disease through ACA exchanges, updating the law on the right to vote and fighting the increase in the cost of prescription drug drugs.

Strong public support for most of these ideas has led the Democrats to be cautiously optimistic that their challengers next year will be able to introduce the Republican Senators in place as part of a "Senate that does nothing", blocking any action on important issues.

"When your profession votes every day against things that matter to voters … we will certainly make it an important issue," said JB Poersch, Senate Speaker of the Senate Majority, the PAC, one of the largest democrats of the world.

The Democrats have been frustrated so far by their inability to create further pressure on McConnell to resume bills passed by the House. Last week, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi held a press conference during which she waved a chart showing "McConnell's cemetery" of bills that he had blocked, with stones miniature tombs.

Holmes, now president of a communications company in Washington, said the Democrats in the House were today facing the same ruthless equation that the Republicans had made in 2013-14. During this session of Congress, the House controlled by the GOP adopted a series of conservative priorities, then systematically blocked by the Democratic majority led by Sen at the time. Harry Reid of Nevada. Despite loud complaints, Republicans in the House could never generate enough pressure on Reid to require him to allow votes on GOP projects.

"For the same reason, Harry Reid did not feel particularly moved by the fact that John Boehner (then president) had introduced all the Conservative bills dealing with the economy or possible social problems," he said. declared Holmes. Nancy Pelosi's priorities are not those of Mitch McConnell, period. And he is very comfortable with that. "

Electoral security measures

Election security, however, could be a problem that would lead at least some GOP senators to question the McConnell blockade. Sarbanes, who chaired the Democracy Reform Working Group in the House, said the party plans to adopt by August a "series" of bills designed to protect the people of the country. 2020 elections against foreign interference.

These bills will include certain measures already included in the House's omnibus political reform bill, HR 1, which would provide states with more money to strengthen voting systems against a possible foreign intrusion and force the Department internal security to develop a strategy to resist such attacks.

The Chamber also plans to adopt new measures requiring the campaigns to warn federal law enforcement agencies if foreign agents approach them to provide them with detrimental information about their adversaries, as well as provisions prohibiting campaigns against them. share internal information with foreign agents, forcing purchases on digital platforms and stating that it is illegal to work with foreigners to influence an American election.

"We may not be able to put each piece of this package on the floor and send it to the Senate before the month of August, but we want to have a good critical mass of these important measures in place", said Sarbanes.

Polls have shown broad public support for future actions to resist interference by Russia or other foreign actors in the 2020 elections. A survey conducted last month by the University from Monmouth revealed that 60% of Americans felt that the government was not doing enough to protect itself from such interference. A poll conducted by Democratic pollster Geoff Garin for the bipartisan Law Works Action advocacy group revealed that more than 4 out of 5 Americans support the requirement for political campaigns to warn police forces. order of foreign assistance offers.

As noted above, McConnell has felt comfortable blocking debate on another law passed by the House with such unbalanced public support. But House Democrats hope more Republican senators will demand that he allow action on these issues, as the public risks seeing them as less partisan.

Why Mitch McConnell Rejects Hill's Calls for Electoral Security, While House Dems Seeks New Momentum

"I think it will be a very difficult place for him, opposing what is supposed to protect the fundamental principles of our democracy," said Sarbanes. "It's about … protecting us from foreign interference, and being certain that our elections are free, fair, and uninfluenced." That's a fundamental principle, and that's the kind of principles of the founding fathers, If you oppose measures that are designed to safeguard these principles, I think you are obstructing American democracy or at least not respecting it. "

McConnell has not yet definitively closed the door on election security legislation. He is committed to having intelligence officials update the Senate later this month on possible risks.

"I suspect this has a huge influence on what the Senate is finally doing in this space," said Holmes.

But all of McConnell's signals suggest that it is unlikely that he will accept almost all new federal election security initiatives. Last week, Senate Republicans blocked the efforts of Democrat Senator Mark Warner of Virginia to force the vote on a "duty to report" bill, which many Republicans see as an attempt to embarrass President Donald Trump. McConnell ignored Trump's comments, which sparked widespread condemnation in both parties that "you might want to listen" to a foreign government offering dirt to an opponent in 2020. And Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the GOP leadership publicly stated that it was unlikely McConnell would authorize an election security bill, regardless of the next decision of the House.

This opposition reflects both McConnell's long-standing resistance to federal influence on any aspect of election activity (he has long been the main opponent of the regulation of campaign financing) and his reluctance to take action that provoke Trump. But this may allow the Democrats to make electoral security a powerful symbol of McConnell's broader wall against the bill passed by the House.

For example, the Democratic Party of Texas on Monday repressed Republican Senator John Cornyn, who is due to be reelected next year, for joining the Republican opposition to Warner's disclosure legislation. of contacts with the abroad. "If Cornyn refuses to legislate, what's the point in Washington?" Abhi Rahman, director of party communications, said in a statement.

The McConnell, usually taciturn, enthusiastically accepted the "Reaper's" personality for the priorities of the House. The question is whether the Senate leader adopts this identity to a point that helps the Democrats push through the GOP Senate majority in 2020.

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