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Blunt Delivers Opening Statement at Rules Committee Hearing on S.1

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.),Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, delivered his opening statement at a hearing on S.1, Senate Democrats’ partisan, 800+ page election bill.

Following Are Blunt’s Remarks:

“Good morning to everybody here, and pleased others will be attending as the morning goes on.

“Before I begin my comments on today's hearing, I'd like to congratulate Chairwoman Klobuchar on becoming head of our committee. Senator Klobuchar and I have a long history of working together to try to make the daily work of the Senate go better as an institution, and we have worked on lots of bills outside of the scope of this committee as well. As all of you know, we've also begun bipartisan hearings on the events of January the 6th. As the senator said, we're continuing interviews—extensive interviews—on that topic, and we're going to be looking to see what comes next there. I look forward to continuing the committee's work with her as we look to the remainder of this Congress.

“I also want to mention the four new members that have joined the committee. I'd like to formally welcome Senators Merkley, Hagerty, Padilla, and Ossoff to the committee. Senator Padilla and I both served as secretaries of state and have maybe more of a sense of the many things that you worry about on Election Day than people who have been candidates on ElectionDay but never have had the responsibility that secretaries of state and local officials have.

“Now, to the business of today, it's been 21 years since the first bill of a Congress has been referred to the Rules Committee. I think the first bill, the S.1 bill, is symbolically important. It's intended to demonstrate the highest priority of the Senate's majority party. And, as theRules Committee begins its review of the majority's highest priority, S.1, we should note that Democrats defended the last elections as secure without meaningful election fraud, as Senator Klobuchar has done here today. They point to the high level of voter participation and the ability of states to make pandemic driven changes. If you follow their view of why we need this bill, in spite of those two things, it's because the states are now headed in the wrong direction.

“They have been pointing to 253 bills, that became 300 bills this morning, but 253 bills mentioned in almost every article filed in 43 state legislatures to make it harder to vote. Now, nobody is a bigger expert on how you should conduct elections than politicians. When people come to see me who are with the airline industry, I say okay, 'what you're going to find inCongress is everybody here thinks they are experts on two issues: elections and air travel.

“Elections are something that every state legislature thinks they're [an] expert on. And, frankly, six or seven bills filed in the average legislative session by Republicans and that many filed by Democrats would not be an unusual number at all. The truth is almost none of those bills become law. In fact, the Brennan Center, who's been the source of these 253 bills that restrict voter access, say that so far, only two have become law. One bill inArkansas further defines the implementation of photo ID requirements, and the other bill in Utah requires the lieutenant governor to send the Social Security list of deceased recipients to county clerks so that they can initiate the process of removing the names of dead people from the voter rolls. The BrennanCenter lists that removal as voter suppression. I think they also list the bill that Senator Klobuchar talked about in Kentucky as voter suppression because it takes the expansion that Kentucky made in the pandemic moment and then institutes the best of that expansion as part of permanent law. You can't have both voter suppression and praising the bill at the same time as an example of how we need to move forward, and states are moving forward in these areas.

“Now, it's never mentioned that over 700 bills have been filed by Democrats in state legislatures, and actually more than 100 of them have somehow become law. 100 Democrat bills passed into law and two Republican bills sounds like there's a little disproportion there. But, let me give you an idea on that one. One of the Illinois bills requires the establishment of polling places in county jails so prisoners can vote.

“The bill that we're looking at really doesn't have much todo with the topic of how well the elections were conducted in the last cycle, or Democrats wouldn't be offering the bill at all. One of the goals of S.1 will be a federal takeover of the election process. In my view, that would be an unmitigated disaster for our democracy.

“Today's hearing will shed light on some of the destructive elements contained in this legislation. You know, I've been a former election administrator—first as the Greene County Clerk in Missouri's third largest county and later as Missouri's Secretary of State.

“I'm greatly concerned about the idea that somehow one-size-fits-all regulations from the federal government change a system that has served our country well since the beginning of the country. The diversity of our election system is one of the greatest strengths of our election system.You all have become perhaps tired of me consistently quoting President Obama in2016 who made that exact same observation: one of the strengths of the system is the diversity of the system. 

“S.1 would force a single partisan view of elections on more than 10,000 jurisdictions around the country. State and local election administrators would be forced to change how they registered voters and which voting systems they can use, how they handle early voting and absentee ballots, and how they maintain their voter list.

“The bill requires states to make ballot drop boxes available for 45 days prior to a federal election. It even designates the location of the drop boxes and tells states how the ballots are to be taken out of the drop boxes and counted. It would mandate unlimited ballot harvesting—a process where one person collects and submits an unlimited number of ballots, a system ripe for abuse, as Democrats in the House of Representatives contended when they refused the election of a Republican from North Carolina because of ballot harvesting.

“This bill would also require states to allow felons to vote in federal elections, and it does allow states that don't want to do that to have a separate set of voter registration lists: one for federal elections and one for other elections. What's more, this bill would require all of these changes to be made very quickly. So quickly that, should this legislation be enacted, chaos will reign in the next election and voters will have less faith in the integrity of their elections than they currently do.

“S.1's path of destruction doesn't stop at election administration. It would result in a partisan Federal Election Commission, a commission that is designed to be half of one party and half of the other.Federal monies would flow into campaign coffers at the rate of $6—$6 federal dollars—for every dollar raised up to $200. $1,200 from the Treasury for $200raised would be particularly helpful to candidates when they can pay themselves a salary to campaign as this bill also allows.

“These are only a few of the things that people need to be aware of. I'm sure they'll be aware of much more by the end of this hearing.There are First Amendment issues. There are 10th Amendment issues, a federal takeover of congressional redistricting, a constitutional issue.

“And, let me finally request that, as a committee, we really work through this and other issues based on the principles of fair play. Now, as I said earlier, Senator Klobuchar and I have worked closely together for along time, and we will continue to. But on this issue, the first time my staff saw a draft of this 818 page bill was March the 12th. After agreeing to the number of witnesses on March the 16th, we were informed at 6:18 p.m. onThursday, March the 18th that, instead of having the three Democrat witnesses and two Republican witnesses we'd agreed to, there'd be six Democrat witnesses and we could add our witnesses if we could find them over the weekend.

“This committee has a long tradition of respect for the minority party. I hope that custom will be restored. I'm glad to be joined by so many of our colleagues today, Chairwoman, and look forward to the hearing.”