March 10, 2020

On Senate Floor, Ranking Member Klobuchar Calls on Republican Colleagues to Bring For the People Act to the Senate Floor

Today marks one year since the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1 For The People Act, to restore ethics and transparency to government, which includes over a dozen Klobuchar provisions, including the Honest Ads Act and Election Security Act

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with jurisdiction over federal elections, spoke on the floor of the Senate and called on her Republican colleagues to bring H.R. 1, the For the People Act to the Senate Floor for a vote. Today marks one year since the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act, to restore ethics and transparency to government, which includes over a dozen Klobuchar provisions, including the Honest Ads Act and the Election Security Act.

Full transcript below and video HERE.

Madam President, I come to the floor to mark the one-year anniversary of the House passage of H.R. 1 – the For the People Act. I am honored to be here with my colleagues and I am here to urge the Republicans to bring this legislation to the floor for a vote.

This bill has been languishing in a legislative graveyard for a year. I know because I have thirteen provisions in this bill and this bill which is the combined work of so many people in this chamber including my friends Senator Udall and Senator Merkley and many others. It would fundamentally improve our democracy by protecting voting rights, securing our election systems, and getting dark money out of our campaign system.

So why is it so important for us to act on this bill?

Well, because every one of the things that we want to get done: finally addressing the climate crisis, immigration reform, improving people’s health care, making healthcare more affordable all depends on a democracy that works so that people and can make sure that their vote counts.

At a time when the right to vote is under attack, when foreign adversaries are trying to exploit our divisions and interfere in our elections, something we are going to be briefed about this afternoon from intelligence agencies. And when an unprecedented amount of money from special interests is drowning out the voices of the American people, we need to take bold action to restore Americans’ confidence in our political system. And that’s exactly what the For the People Act does.

As Ranking Member of the Rules Committee this bill I know is important. I am frustrated that we have not had more rules committee hearing about things like oversight of the FEC. I am frustrated that just today a Republican Commissioner was put forth for a hearing, recommended by the White House when there is a highly qualified Democratic candidate for the FEC who would be the first person of color in the history of the Federal Election Committee to serve on that committee. Who has been vetted and has cleared the White House, but we only saw the Republican candidate.  

This is why this bill is so important.

This year, Madam President, marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment which granted women the right to vote. As we celebrate, we are reminded that throughout our country’s history, the right to vote has been hard-fought and hard-won.

Just two weeks ago, I had the honor of joining Congressman John Lewis – a true hero for voting rights – on the 55th annual Selma Bridge crossing to commemorate the sacrifices made on Bloody Sunday.  

When we reflect on the sacrifices that have been made for the right to vote, one thing is truly clear and that is: the fight isn’t over.

Today, there are people working hard to take the right to vote away. Their work comes in many forms: voter ID laws, gerrymandered districts, purging people from voting rolls, and one that we just saw just last week on Super Tuesday… polling place closures that result in voters having to wait hours in line just to cast a ballot.

In the state Texas, just last week, some African American voters waited more than 5 hours in line. When a reporter asked one group of voters how they got through it, a man said. . .

“We thought they were making us wait on purpose…so we motivated each other to stay.”

The policies that led to those long lines didn’t happen by accident. Discrimination in voting is happening – as the Fourth Circuit noted in a North Carolina decision on gerrymandering – and these are the words of a judge’s - with surgical precision. Surgical precision, discrimination in voting against the African American community.

Our democracy is stronger when more people participate. Our policies are better when more people participate. So we should be making easier, not harder, to vote. 

Every eligible American should be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18, that’s a bill that I lead. If Target, my hometown company, can track a pair of shoes in Hawaii, with a sku number… If everyone gets a Social Security number, we should be able to make sure that people who are eligible to vote automatically are registered when they turn 18.

We need to reform how we draw district maps to end the practice of gerrymandering by having an independent commission in each state.

And certainly we need to ban purges of voting rolls. As my friend Stacey Abrams has said – If you don’t go to church or synagogue or mosque for a year or so you don’t lose your right to worship. If you don’t go to a PTA meetings or any other kind of rotary club or anything for a few years you do not lose your right to assemble under the United States constitution. And if you have not voted for a few elections and you show up when you’ve been registered but somehow they never got you the notice and then you find out, because there is no same day registration that you cannot vote, even though you have been duly registered to vote, you should not lose your right to vote under the United States Constitution. And that is exactly what is going on right now with voting purges.

I am proud to lead provisions in the important For the People Act that would accomplish all of these goals to end these discriminatory practices. We also, of course, have to make voting more secure, which is my last topic.

It has been 1218 days since Russia attacked us in 2016, and we have yet to pass comprehensive election security legislation. The next major elections are just 240 days away and primaries, as we know, are already underway - we must take action now to secure our elections from foreign threats.

That’s why I have championed legislation – which was included in H.R. 1 – to beef up our election systems by providing states with resources to modernize our voting equipment, some of which we have passed here in this chamber. But also, and this is the key part, to set standards for all federal elections …requirements like paper ballots and post-election audits. We still have states, entire states, that have no backup paper ballots and I’m not going to spend time going through all of those states and which part but let me tell you Russians know exactly what those states are. No backup paper ballots. We just had some caucuses in this country and people resorted to looking at those paper ballots. Well imagine if we are hacked in a certain county or in a certain state and there are no backup paper ballots. What will that do to a federal election?

These are the basics of a secure election system, but in 2020, as I noted - voters in 8 states will cast their ballots on machines that produce no paper trail. 16 states still have no statewide audit requirement to confirm the results of the election. And the majority of states rely on voting systems that are at least 10 years old.

That’s wrong and that why Senator Lankford and I as well as many others, Senator Warner and others, Senator Harris, Senator Burr, have been pushing the Senate to act. But we were gut punched, we were gut punched because calls were made from the White House and calls were made from Senator McConnell to stop the votes to get that bill through the committee through to the Senate floor a year ago.

Making voting easier and more secure is only part of the solution. We also have to get the dark money out of our politics and increase transparency.

Americans know this, they there is way too much dark money in our politics. They overwhelmingly - poll after poll after poll want to have more transparency.

Campaign finance reform is a central part of H.R. 1 for a reason. If we don’t put a check on the corrupting influence of money in politics, American voices will be continued to be drown out by special interests.

Think about what I’ve just proposed. Three things: make voting easier, secure our election systems, and get big money out of our campaigns. These are not radical proposals. These are proposals that nearly everyone in our country agrees upon.

Madam President, I would like to conclude by noting that in addition to marking the one-year anniversary of the House passing H.R. 1 . . . today is Harriet Tubman Day. Most people remember Harriet for her incredible work on the Underground Railroad where she repeatedly risked her life for the freedom of others. I recently watched the movie Harriet and highly recommend it to my colleagues.

But Harriet Tubman didn’t stop her fight for freedom and equality after the Civil War ended. She took up the cause of women’s suffrage and worked tirelessly until she was 90 years old to help women get the right to vote.

We celebrate her life today because she spent a lifetime bending the arc of our moral universe towards justice. The best way we can honor her – and the countless others who have risked their lives for our country and our democracy – is to continue the work of improving our democracy so that it works better for the next generation. That is what the For the People Act is all about. I urge my Republican colleagues, I implore them for a group of people that I know believe in freedom allow us to have this bill come up for a vote. To ensure that people have the cherished freedom to vote. Thank you Madam President, I yield the floor.

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