Reps. Smucker, Perry rip House Dems' ethics reform bill

Dispatch Staff
Republican incumbent candidates Scott Perry, left, and Lloyd Smucker greet each other during an appearance by Vice President Mike Pence who rallied at the Lancaster Airport in Lititz Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

Representatives for York County’s Republican members of Congress issued the following news releases after their votes Friday against H.R. 1, which the Democrats have dubbed the For the People Act of 2019:

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, Pennsylvania’s 11th District:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker issued the following statement on the passage of H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2019:

“Democrats have marketed H.R. 1 as a necessary election reform measure – but the ugly truth is this bill is a massive federal overreach which won’t make our elections safer or more democratic,” Smucker said. “This is an unconstitutional power-grab, written with zero input from anyone across the aisle. It would limit Americans’ free speech and alter the very fundamental principles of our elections system, all at a significant cost to taxpayers.” 

A major provision of H.R. 1 – a 571-page bill – is providing political welfare for politicians, giving candidates a taxpayer subsidy — $6 for every $1 – ultimately forcing the American taxpayer to fund the campaigns of politicians, regardless of whether they support or oppose them. As of February 2019, the U.S. is currently $22 trillion in debt.

The legislation would force states to adopt automatic and online voter registration, with no safeguards or options to maintain the integrity of voter rolls. The legislation also does not require or encourage states to remove inaccurate voter information – including duplicate records or ineligible voters – and fails to criminalize fraudulent registration, increasing voter fraud. The bill would make Election Day a public holiday and would force states to establish a redistricting commission to draw congressional district lines based on the criteria in the bill. 

H.R. 1 sets a dangerous precedent and infringes upon states’ and individuals’ constitutional rights, since the U.S. Constitution puts primary responsibility in the states to set the “times, places and manner” of congressional elections.

The legislation also decreases the number of commissioners on the Federal Elections Commission from six to five, thus ending the Commission’s longstanding history as a bipartisan body and weaponizing it against certain political speech.

Conservative and liberal groups alike have blasted the proposal, expressing grave concerns about the impact of H.R. 1 on American democracy. Even the left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union said the bill was unconstitutional and would “harm public discourse” and “silence necessary voices.”

Beyond the repercussions of H.R. 1 on political speech, implementation would also be costly. In a report released Friday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the cost of H.R. 1 would be $2.6 billion over the next five years.

“I voted against this measure because I believe we should reject this overreach,” Smucker said. “Passing a measure like this only allows more power for the politicians – not for the people.”

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, Pennsylvania’s 10th District:

Washington, D.C. – The United State House of Representatives considered H.R. 1 – and inaccurately entitled “For the People” - a bill that undermines the integrity the American electoral process. Congressman Scott Perry opposed the legislation.

“H.R. 1 is anything but “For the People;” it undermines our fundamental First Amendment Rights of Assembly and Free Speech, usurps the rights of state and local governments, and ultimately degrades the integrity of our elections – which, frankly, is the goal. The bill purposefully stifles our open process and honest debate – and is a tragedy for the American People,” said Congressman Perry.

“While we all agree that transparency in our electoral process is critical, no one should be bullied out of the public space. As political violence in our Country becomes more and more frequent, and the vitriolic mob on social media gains steam, it’s never been more critical to protect these liberties. No one should fear for his/her safety for contributing to a cause they support - be it Planned Parenthood or the National Rifle Association. We deserve the right to participate in civil, public discourse without fear of reprisal from the government or our fellow citizens. This bill encourages the suppression of free speech and creates a chilling effect by effectively boxing out people from public discourse if they support either partisan or unpopular speech,” Perry continued.  

Organizations from across the political spectrum opposed the bill, notably the American Civil Liberties Union, who wrote: “The upshot of the DISCLOSE Act [embedded in H.R. 1], and the essence of why we oppose it, is that it would chill the speech of issue advocacy groups and non-profits such as the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, or the NRA that is essential to our public discourse and protected by the First Amendment.”

Beyond the First Amendment infringements, H.R. 1 federalizes many election authorities, which constitutionally are delegated to the States. For instance, the bill will bar states from good faith efforts to bring integrity to their voting lists. It also encourages opportunity for voter fraud by mandating same-day registration, and forcing States to count votes cast outside a voter’s assigned precinct. In addition, it promotes partisan opportunism by transforming the Federal Election Commission into a partisan agency; currently it’s an independent rule keeper and a neutral arbiter of disputes.

The more than 600 page bill was referred to 10 House Committees, but strategically had only one “mark-up;” mark-ups are designed for free and open debate within each House Committee.   

“A broken process gives you a broken bill - every time,” Congressman Perry concluded.