EDITORIAL: What do Pa. Republicans have against new reforms

York Dispatch Editorial Board
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

The Democratic-led House recently passed a sweeping overhaul package that would propel the kind of much-needed government reforms that have drawn scant congressional attention these past two years.

The measure would expand voting rights, enact ethics and campaign-finance reforms, and require presidential and vice-presidential nominees to disclose their tax returns.

So what’s not to like?

Plenty, for congressional Republicans. They voted in lockstep against the bill, which nonetheless passed 234-193 along party lines. Here’s what Democrats voted for, and Republicans voted against:

  • Making voting easier by requiring states to create automatic voter registration systems for federal elections, expand early voting and streamline absentee balloting.
  • Making voting fairer by doing away with partisan gerrymandering and outlawing voter-registration purges like those recently conducted in Georgia and Ohio.
  • Reducing the sway of big money in politics by preventing congressional members from sitting on corporate boards and tightening lobbyist loopholes.
  • Banning the use of taxpayer money to settle workplace-discrimination cases.
  • Establishing a Code of Ethics for Supreme Court justices, who now answer to no one if they give speeches to partisan political groups or fail to recuse themselves from cases in which they may have a conflict of interest.
  • Requiring the disclosure of 10 years’ worth of personal and business tax returns for all presidents, vice presidents and candidates — including the current office-holders.

The nay-sayers included York County’s congressional representatives, Republicans Scott Perry and Lloyd Smucker. The reform-averse lawmakers issued separate press releases in the wake of their “no” votes that were as partisan as they were predictable.

“This is an unconstitutional power-grab, written with zero input from anyone across the aisle,” complained Smucker, who has evidently forgotten how his party’s massive tax cuts for the wealthy and efforts to torpedo the Affordable Care Act were crafted.

“A tragedy for the American people,” stated Perry, who sees the prevention of voter purges as “(barring) states from good faith efforts to bring integrity to their voting lists.”

Perry and Smucker may have lost the battle in the House but, unfortunately, they will win the war. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky isn’t about to let a bill come to the floor that would threaten his party’s partisan advantages at the polls or among moneyed interests.

He, too, referred to the measure as “a power grab.” It is awfully telling that Republican leaders equate electoral fairness with a threat to their majorities.

McConnell’s opposition is a not-unexpected disappointment, but it throws into high relief the agendas — not to mention effectiveness — of the two parties.

A Democratic House majority quickly delivered on its promise to pass legislation for long-overdue voting and ethics reforms — measures that truly would “drain the swamp” in Washington.

Republican opponents, meanwhile, who could not organize their previous two-house majorities to pass either the health-care dagger or funding for the president’s unnecessary border wall, continue to act as little more than roadblocks on the road to reform.

Ethics improvements and increased ballot-box access are necessary measures and, some day, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, they will come to Washington. That’s likely to be right around the time the Smuckers, Perrys and McConnells of Capitol Hill leave Washington.