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Americans Losing Faith In Government, Democrats Seek Voting Rights

McConnell’s condemnation means the legislation has almost no chance of coming up for a vote in the U.S. Senate, which is firmly under the control of Republicans. The monthlong government shutdown delayed Democrats’ timeline for moving the bill through the House.

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Americans Losing faith in government. VOA

Americans’ faith in their government is near historic lows.

Just before the beginning of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, only 18 percent of Americans said they trusted Washington lawmakers to do what is right “just about always” or “most of the time,” according to a Pew Research Center poll. Since then, public cynicism has grown even deeper, according to experts.

The new Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is making a sweeping attempt to address those concerns, with H.R. 1 “The People’s Act,” a bill designed to tackle what many see as lingering and corrosive problems in American democracy.

From changing the way candidates fund their campaigns and addressing foreign election interference to automatically registering voters and reversing a U.S. Supreme Court decision on voter suppression, this ambitious legislation would significantly alter many areas of the democratic process.

FILE - Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, arrives for the testimony of Google CEO Sundar Pichai about the internet giant's privacy security and data collection, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 11, 2018.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, arrives for the testimony of Google CEO Sundar Pichai about the internet giant’s privacy security and data collection, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 11, 2018. (VOA)

“The general arc of our nation’s politics over the last generation has made it easy to be cynical,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said Tuesday. “Easy to say that America has, in that time, increasingly tended toward an oligarchy, in which more and more of the political power is concentrated in fewer and fewer wealthy and powerful hands.”

The 2018 midterm election campaign fueled distrust in the electoral process amid reports of voter suppression in Georgia, Florida and elsewhere, and irregularities in absentee balloting in North Carolina.

McConnell sees ‘power grab’

But congressional Republicans say these reforms are an attempt by Democrats to centralize elections under federal oversight and are better left to state and local voting officials.

“They’re trying to clothe this power grab with clichés about ‘restoring democracy’ and doing it ‘For the People,’ but their proposal is simply a naked attempt to change the rules of American politics to benefit one party,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote in a Washington Post editorial published last week. “It should be called the Democrat Politician Protection Act.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined at left by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., speaks to reporters asking about the threat of another government shutdown following a strategy meeting in Washington, Jan. 29, 2019
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined at left by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., speaks to reporters asking about the threat of another government shutdown following a strategy meeting in Washington, Jan. 29, 2019.VOA

McConnell’s condemnation means the legislation has almost no chance of coming up for a vote in the U.S. Senate, which is firmly under the control of Republicans. The monthlong government shutdown delayed Democrats’ timeline for moving the bill through the House.

Four weeks into the new 116th Congress, the House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing this week on some of the key issues in the bill.

Also Read: Researchers Discover Treatment for Obesity, Fatty Liver Disease

Voter registration

Voters would be automatically registered to vote if the new bill is enacted. Currently, voter registration in the United States is voluntary. The bill would also make Election Day a federal holiday, helping free up some voters from work responsibilities so they can head to the polls. Critics of the provision say that would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.

FILE - Vanita Gupta, incoming president and CEO of The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2017, before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on responses to the increase in religious hate crimes.
Vanita Gupta, incoming president and CEO of The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2017, before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on responses to the increase in religious hate crimes. (VOA)

Voting rights

The bill would institute a nationwide restoration of voting rights for an estimated 6.1 million people with felony convictions. The state of Florida recently restored those rights for 1.4 million of its residents. This bill would end the practice of that decision being made on varied criteria at the state level. These post-Civil War era practices “have a significant racial impact,” Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, testified. (VOA)

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U.S. and Russia To Come Up With An Agreement On How To Resolve Venezuela Crisis

Moscow strongly warned the United States “against any temptation to resort to military power” in Venezuela. Russian state news agency TASS quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying. “We assume that Washington treats our priorities seriously, our approach and warnings.”

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Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams speaks at the State Department in Washington, March 15, 2019. VOA

U.S. Special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams says Russia and the United States have failed to come to an agreement on how to resolve the crisis in Venezuela following talks in Rome. He did not rule out a future meeting between both sides and said the talks helped both sides gain a better understanding of each other’s views.

The United States Special envoy for Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, described the Rome talks with Russian officials on the crisis in Venezuela as “useful, substantial and serious.” He said the conversations allowed the United States to understand that “Russia sees the crisis in Venezuela as very serious, unlike President Maduro,” mainly, Abrams said, in regard to the economic and humanitarian aspects.

Following a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, Abrams said, “We did not come to a meeting of the minds, but the talks were positive in the sense that I think both sides emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views.” The two sides remain at odds over the legitimacy of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The United States has recognized self-declared President Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, while Russia continues to recognize Mr. Maduro. Italy also has not given Mr. Guaido recognition.

FILE - Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognized as the country's rightful interim ruler, takes part in a rally against President Nicolas Maduro's government in Valencia, Venezuela, March 16, 2019.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognized as the country’s rightful interim ruler, takes part in a rally against President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Valencia, Venezuela, March 16, 2019. VOA

Abrams met with the Pietro Benassi, the diplomatic adviser of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Abrams said the United States is not applying pressure on the Italian government to recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president.

The meetings in the Italian capital took place as the United States imposed fresh sanctions on Venezuela, this time targeting the state-run gold mining company Minerven and its president.

President Donald Trump and visiting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speak during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 19, 2019.

But at the White House, President Donald Trump on Tuesday reiterated that “all options are open” on the future of Venezuela.

“We are not looking for anything other than taking care of a lot of people that are starving and dying in the streets. What’s happening there is a disgrace,” he said.

Abrams stressed that negotiations are not underway because “We do not negotiate the future of Venezuela with Russia or others because the future of Venezuela will be chosen by the Venezuelans.”

Also Read: Know The Venezuelans Ways to Cope with Inflation and Hunger

Moscow strongly warned the United States “against any temptation to resort to military power” in Venezuela. Russian state news agency TASS quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying. “We assume that Washington treats our priorities seriously, our approach and warnings.”

Abrams did not exclude a future meeting with Russia on the Venezuela crisis but said no date had been set. The White House said President Trump will also discuss the Venezuela crisis with Caribbean leaders on Friday. (VOA)