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McConnell: Democratic bill to make Election Day federal holiday a ‘power grab’



Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not fond of a bill introduced by his Democratic colleagues in the House that would make Election Day a federal holiday.

The Republican leader on Wednesday accused Democrats of a “power grab” over the legislation, known as H.R. 1.

In remarks on the Senate floor, McConnell said, “Just what America needs, another paid holiday and a bunch of government workers being paid to go out and work for I assume our folks-our colleagues on the other side, on their campaigns.”

He added, “This is the Democrat plan to restore democracy? A brand-new week of paid vacation for every federal employee who would like to hover around while you cast your ballot?”

McConnell said the bill would “victimize every American taxpayer by pouring their money into expensive new subsidies that don’t even pass the laugh test.”

He referred to the legislation as the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.”

Read more: US voter turnout was way up in the 2018 midterms, but it still lags behind most developed countries’

In addition to making Election Day a federal holiday to make it easier for voters to get to the polls, the sweeping legislation introduced by House Democrats earlier this month includes reforms such as automatic voter registration, among other changes.

The bill aims to reduce the influence of big money in elections as well via a matching system for small-dollar donations to congressional campaigns.

In what could be interpreted as a jab at President Donald Trump, the bill also includes a requirement for presidential and vice-presidential candidates to release their tax returns. Trump has broken years of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns.

McConnell has consistently pushed against the bill, and in an op-ed for The Washington Post earlier this month said the proposed legislation is “simply a naked attempt to change the rules of American politics to benefit one party.”

The Senate majority leader was mocked by Democrats on social media over his comments on Wednesday.

Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, for example, tweeted, “Voting is a power grab. By citizens.”

Similarly, former Obama administration adviser Dan Pfeiffer tweeted, “If more people voting is bad for your political party, maybe try fixing your party.”

Walter Shaub, a former director of the Office of Government Ethics, echoed these views and added that a number of federal workers are veterans and suggested Election Day and Veterans Day should be combined.

“A ‘power grab’ to let people vote?” Shaub tweeted. “He also says it’s just a holiday for bureaucrats, almost ⅓ of whom are veterans. How about McConnell compromises by moving Veterans Day to the 1st Tuesday in November? What better way to honor veterans than by making it easier for them to vote?”

At president, 13 states have laws on the books that make Election Day a paid holiday, and a number of states also have laws that require employers to give their workers time off to vote. But many Americans still face a significant number of obstacles when it comes to voting, which might help explain why voter turnout in the US is low compared to much of the world.

Making Election Day a federal holiday appears to be a notion that has popular support. A November 2018 poll conducted by Hill.TV and the HarrisX polling company found a majority of Americans favor making Election Day a federal holiday. McConnell is apparently not among them.

America’s elections are held on Tuesdays due to an 1845 law that many contend is antiquated and doesn’t account for the realities of the president day and the constraints people face during the work week. The US is also an outlier among developed nations in this regard, research shows.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis, 27 of the 36 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development hold their national elections on the weekend. Meanwhile, Israel and South Korea hold their national elections on weekdays but have made them national holidays so people can still get to the polls.

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