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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.

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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)

Next Story

Democrats Campaigning on Medicare for All Wrestling With How to Pay for The Dramatic Overhaul

Bernie Sanders, the chief proponent, says “Medicare for All” could cost up to $40 trillion over a decade

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Democrats, Medicare, Pay
Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) attend a Medicare For All event on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 10, 2019. VOA

Democratic presidential candidates campaigning on “Medicare for All” are wrestling with how to pay for the dramatic overhaul of the American health care system.

Bernie Sanders, the chief proponent, says “Medicare for All” could cost up to $40 trillion over a decade. He’s been the most direct in discussing how he’d finance it, including higher taxes on the middle class which he argues would ultimately cost less than the current health care system.

Democrats, Medicare, Pay
Democratic presidential candidates campaigning on “Medicare for All” are wrestling with how to pay for the dramatic overhaul of the American health care system. PIxabay

But his rivals who also support “Medicare for All” have offered relatively few firm details so far about how they’d pay for it beyond raising taxes on top earners.

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As health care dominates the early days of the Democratic primary, some experts say candidates won’t be able to duck the question for long. (VOA)