Washington • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that a Democratic bill that would make Election Day a federal holiday is a “power grab,” sparking a fierce backlash online.
McConnell was speaking about H.R. 1, legislation that Democrats have made a centerpiece of their agenda since retaking the House earlier this month.
In remarks on the Senate floor, McConnell, R-Ky., said Democrats "want taxpayers on the hook for generous new benefits for federal bureaucrats and government employees," including making Election Day a "new paid holiday for government workers."
"So this is the Democrats' plan to 'restore democracy,'" McConnell said, describing the legislation as "a political power grab that's smelling more and more like what it is."
The far-reaching legislation would also prohibit the purging of voter rolls, require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to release their tax returns, compel states to adopt independent redistricting commissions and create a matching system for small-dollar donations to congressional campaigns, among other changes.
In his Wednesday remarks, as well as in a Washington Post commentary earlier this month, McConnell mocked the legislation as the "Democrat Politician Protection Act."
"H.R. 1 would victimize every American taxpayer by pouring their money into expensive new subsidies that don't even pass the laugh test," McConnell said on the Senate floor.
His remarks prompted a wave of criticism by Democrats, some of whom argued that McConnell was acknowledging that Republicans want to make it more difficult for Americans to vote.
"Voting is a power grab. By citizens," Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said in a tweet Wednesday afternoon.
Ezra Levin, a former Capitol Hill staffer who co-founded the Indivisible network of liberal activist groups, accused McConnell of "rehearsing old lines."
"In 1977, after Watergate and Nixon, Jimmy Carter was inaugurated and proposed expansive reforms to campaign finance and to make it easier to vote," he said on Twitter. "The GOP called it a 'power grab' and killed it in the Senate."
Walter Shaub, a former director of the Office of Government Ethics, noted that a significant number of federal workers are military veterans and suggested combining Election Day with Veterans Day, a proposal that has made the rounds in recent years.
“A ‘power grab’ to let people vote?” Shaub said in a tweet. “He also says it’s just a holiday for bureaucrats, almost 1/3 of whom are veterans. How about McConnell compromises by moving Veterans Day to the 1st Tuesday in November? What better way to honor veterans than by making it easier for them to vote?”