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Ranking Member Cole Hearing Remarks on the Senate Amendment to H.R. 5746

As delivered during tonight’s hearing:

We’re here today on a bill that is ostensibly the Senate Amendment to H.R. 5746, the NASA Enhanced Use Leasing Extension Act of 2021.

However, at the last minute the Majority completely changed this bill, inserting into it the text of S. 2747, the Freedom to Vote Act, along with the text of H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. I understand, from news reports today, that the intent behind this strategy is to somehow pass this bill in the House and then force a vote on it in the Senate, despite knowing full well that this measure can not and will not pass there. This comes even though the House has already passed H.R. 4 and has already passed H.R. 1, the more egregious big brother of the Freedom to Vote Act.

Perhaps all that explains why the Majority, once again, gave the Minority just one hour to review and process a lengthy, transformative bill. This is hardly what I would call regular order, Mr. Chairman. An hour ago, the Majority posted a 735-page bill. Members have been given no time to read it, no time to review it, no time to draft or propose amendments, no time to do anything other than take what the Majority gives them.

This is an absurd state of affairs. But instead of working through regular order, the Majority is instead once again forcing us to meet on short notice on a bill air-dropped into this committee. I find it deeply frustrating that this committee, again and again and again, is meeting on items drafted in the Speaker’s office, with little notice and no opportunity for members to read, review or propose amendments. It’s hardly a state of affairs that is designed to drive consensus or allow the House to work its will. But given the highly partisan goals of this legislation, perhaps I should not be surprised. 

I would remind my colleagues that the right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights we have as citizens of our great nation. Given the importance of this right, it is disappointing that the Majority has once again chosen to bring up a partisan bill that appears to be nothing more than another attempt to federalize all elections.

As a former Secretary of State of Oklahoma, I am very familiar with how important it is for states to oversee and operate their own elections, as they have done historically. The bill before us irrevocably alters this, resulting in an unprecedented power grab by Washington that would completely change the character of elections as we know it.

The bill before us would change many aspects of how elections are overseen and operated, including requiring states to provide automatic and same-day voter registration, requiring vote by mail and early voting, preventing states from removing dormant voters from the rolls, overriding state voter ID laws, requiring states to allow felons to vote and imposing restrictions on congressional redistricting. All of these are historically the purview of the states, not of Congress, but if this bill were to become law, we would instead see a one-size-fits-all regulatory system imposed from Washington. 

The bill also contains onerous campaign finance provisions like those contained in H.R. 1, including a new taxpayer-funded campaign ATM, ensuring that certain candidates will receive millions of dollars in federal taxpayer dollars just for running a campaign. With the massive amount of money that has been entering our campaign system over the past few decades, seeding it with yet more money from taxpayers does not make much sense.

I could go on and on with Republican concerns about this bill, but I think the committee gets the point: this is a deeply partisan bill filled with partisan provisions, intended to produce a federal takeover of how elections are operated and administered across the country. Despite the short notice before this hearing, the flaws in this approach are apparent. I hope the Majority will reconsider this path.

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