Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing waves of push back for calling legislation that would make Election Day a federal holiday a Democratic “power grab.”
“Their bill would make election day a new paid holiday for government workers, and create an additional, brand-new, paid leave benefit for up to six days for any federal bureaucrat who decides they’d like to hang out at the polls during an election,” said McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor.
“Just what America needs,” he continued, “another paid holiday and a bunch of government workers being paid to go out and work, I assume our colleagues on the other side, on their campaigns.”
McConnell did not explain why he doesn’t think more Republicans would take advantage of this time off, instead summarizing the bill as a “power grab.”
Election Day in the U.S. is always a Tuesday in November, meaning those who can’t get off work often skip the polls or have to squeeze in time before or after their shift. Hundreds of companies gave their employees time off to vote during the 2018 midterms, but Democrats want to make the day an official federal holiday.
McConnell might not approve, but a poll from last November showed 54% of Americans would support this change. The internet responded in kind, with many Democratic lawmakers arguing that expanding voting accessibility only puts more power in the hands of the citizens—regardless of their political party.
Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii put it most simply with his Wednesday tweet.
Voting is a power grab. By citizens. https://t.co/3DwKc3htjv— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 30, 2019
Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida expressed a similar sentiment, saying voters would be able to grab power “back from the wealthy special interests that dominate Washington.”
An Election Day holiday WOULD be a power grab.— Rep. Ted Deutch (@RepTedDeutch) January 30, 2019
It would be the American people grabbing power back from the wealthy special interests that dominate Washington because @senatemajldr & others prefer that it be hard to vote. #ForThePeople https://t.co/g9zZNRrxWX
Kristen Gillibrand, New York senator and 2020 presidential candidate, said that expanding voting isn’t a power grab, but democracy, and “literally the entire point of our representative government.” She also took the chance to point out some ways Congress could increase voter turnout.
Voting isn’t a “power grab”. It’s democracy, and it’s literally the entire point of our representative government.— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) January 30, 2019
And by the way: Not only should Election Day be a federal holiday, we need automatic voter registration and universal mail voting, too. https://t.co/jrJNM7Djgo
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, another 2020 contender, asked “What exactly does @senatemajldr Mitch McConnell have against more Americans voting?”
What exactly does @senatemajldr Mitch McConnell have against more Americans voting? Of course Congress should make it easier for Americans to vote on Election Day. And we need a constitutional amendment establishing a nationally recognized right to vote. https://t.co/0pqGVBAKPB— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 30, 2019
The bill in question, HR 1, also includes provisions that would require presidential candidates to show their tax returns, make super PACs disclose large donors, add a matching system for small donations, and more.