Where the rest of the country sees a crisis and a need to work together as a nation to combat it, Speaker Nancy Pelosi sees a dazzling opportunity to extort extreme policy goals from her colleagues as her toll for allowing safe passage to critical recovery funds to reach American families, workers, and businesses. Not only are the policies she seeks bad news and mostly previously rejected by her own body – but her timing and tactics are egregious, even for the partisan crucible of Washington.
Over the weekend, senators and their staff worked long hours to hammer out a bipartisan compromise on relief for the millions of Americans whose lives, livelihoods and savings have been devastated by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Democrats participated actively in these discussions and the measures were set for passage.
But then Nancy Pelosi came back to DC from a weekend off work, trashed the bipartisan compromise, and instead decided to hold the aid to Americans hostage to her unpopular, radically progressive policies that have little or even nothing to do with the coronavirus and everything to do with appealing to the Democrats’ increasingly socialist/woke constituency.
With the snap of her fingers, Pelosi caused even Democratic senators whose language made it into the bill to vote against it, leading even the most measured and statesmanlike deans of the Senate to lose their cool. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said today: “Democrats won’t let us fund hospitals or save small businesses unless they get to dust off the Green New Deal?”
The economic idiocy of just two examples – mandating diversity quotas on corporate boards (one of the worst policy innovations from California’s state legislature in 2019), or windmills for alternative energy – is bad enough, but perhaps the most egregious and irrelevant overreach by Pelosi is the to attempt to impose California-style voting laws on the whole nation. That’s right – a key item on Pelosi’s massive 1000-page-plus wish list is to force the disastrous H.R. 1 bill, which couldn’t get off the ground last year, on the American people as a price for getting needed financial aid.
The elections section of Pelosi’s overgrown omnibus is rife with extreme, unnecessary and illogical provisions. Three of these provisions illustrate that this is not an attempt to keep voters safe from the coronavirus, but rather to nationalize election administration and undermine states’ protections for election integrity, ultimately providing assistance to Democratic office-seekers.
First, it would allow ballot harvesting nationwide. Any person would be allowed to return an unlimited number of absentee ballots for voters and could even be paid as long as he or she is not paid based on the number of ballots returned. Ballot harvesting in California has allowed paid union workers and other paid “community organizers” to deliver sacks of ballots “harvested” from nursing homes, the homeless and other vulnerable communities to election officials with no checks on who filled them out or what condition the ballot holder was in when the form was completed. This mass ballot machinery was critical to Democrats delivering seven congressional seats from California to Madam Speaker in 2018.
Instead of maintaining distance between people and generally limiting ballot returns — and therefore personal interaction and handling of potentially infected ballots — to people within the same household, Pelosi’s omnibus would allow community organizers and political operatives to visit vast numbers of homes, interact with vast numbers of voters and handle vast numbers of ballots. It’s a virtual prescription for infecting millions of Americans with a communicable disease.
Second, it would require same-day voter registration for every federal election starting this November, meaning more time and interaction between poll workers and voters at a polling place on Election Day. How does that help prevent the spread of COVID-19? It does the opposite – but hey, it checks off a very important piece on the liberal checklist to undermine election integrity! Infection risk be damned.
Third, it would require at least 15 days of early voting for every federal election starting this November. Early voting theoretically means that voters are more spread out and not crowded on Election Day. But it also means that election officials and poll workers have a longer period in which to work and potentially be infected. Election workers at the start of this period could be exposed and eventually infect thousands of people in the ensuing two weeks.
The fact that the early voting and same-day registration requirements would not apply only this November, or in times of national emergency, demonstrates that this is not a serious attempt to respond to COVID-19 but instead an attempt to resurrect the dangerous provisions of H.R. 1, along with the Green New Deal and other unpopular Democratic schemes. In these times of emergency we need to hew to existing safeguards to ensure that only citizens are voting, voting only once and voting safely. However, Speaker Pelosi sees an opportunity, and she won’t let patriotism or duty get in the way of partisan rent-seeking.
While multi-millionaire Democrats in Washington play politics and appeal to special interests, Americans on Main Street are facing devastation. Windmills, diversity quotas and shredding electoral security measures won’t pay the mortgage, cover payroll or save the family farm – but these will ensure Speaker Pelosi’s popularity with the far-left fringe of her party. Perhaps Mrs. Pelosi needs to speak to the laid-off tech workers, nail salon owners, and restaurant servers in San Francisco, to re-align her priorities in this time of national crisis.
Harmeet K. Dhillon is the co-chair of the Republican National Lawyers Association. She is a partner at the Dhillon Law Group.