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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asked the federal government for emergency funding to help his state of Kentucky combat the coronavirus.

"As of March 24, 2020, Kentucky has confirmed 124 cases of COVID-19 and 4 fatalities," McConnell and the other members of Kentucky's congressional delegation wrote to Donald Trump.

When the White House approved funding, McConnell thanked Trump for the federal government's aid to Kentucky.

"The additional federal resources this declaration makes available will help communities across Kentucky continue responding to the coronavirus. I'm grateful President Trump quickly answered our bipartisan call to deliver this vital assistance," he said in a statement.

But McConnell doesn't think other states deserve the same assistance.

On Wednesday, McConnell said state and local governments should "use the bankruptcy route" rather than receive further federal funding.

In a radio interview with conservative host Hugh Hewitt, McConnell shot down the Democratic proposal for another legislative package that would include aid to states hit hardest by the coronavirus.

"My guess is their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don't have to do that," he said. "That's not something I'm going to be in favor of."

The same day, his office put out a statement calling such aid "blue state bailouts."

Kentucky, it turns out, is one of the most federally dependent states in the country. It takes far more help from the federal government than any of the blue states hit hardest by coronavirus and in desperate need of aid.

The response to McConnell's hyperpartisan dismissal of any further assistance was swift, even from his fellow Republicans.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he thinks McConnell "regrets" his statement — or he will in the future. (McConnell has not indicated any such regret thus far.)

"The last thing we need in the middle of an economic crisis is to have states all filing bankruptcy all across America and not able to provide services to people who desperately need them," Hogan added.

Rep. Peter King of New York — the state that's been hit harder than any other thus far, with nearly 20,000 deaths from COVID-19 to date — issued a harsher response on Twitter.

"McConnell's dismissive remark that States devastated by Coronavirus should go bankrupt rather than get the federal assistance they need and deserve is shameful and indefensible," said King.

"To say that it is 'free money' to provide funds for cops, firefighters and healthcare workers makes McConnell the Marie Antoinette of the Senate."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, also slammed what he called McConnell's "vicious" remarks.

"I mean, if there's ever a time for humanity and decency, now is the time," Cuomo said Thursday during his daily press briefing. "And if there was ever a time to stop your political — obsessive political bias and anger, which is what it's morphed into — just a political anger — now is the time. And you want to politically divide this nation now? With all that's going on? How irresponsible and how reckless."

But such criticism is likely to fall on deaf ears.

Last year, McConnell gave himself the nickname "Grim Reaper," openly vowing to kill bills passed by the Democratic House, no matter how popular they are.

He's blocked everything from gun control bills supported by more than 90% of Americans to protection for victims of domestic violence to paycheck fairness to making prescriptions drugs cheaper.

Nearly 400 bills passed by the House have languished in the Senate because McConnell refuses to even hold a vote on them.

Earlier this month, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi outlined a package that would include $10 billion for health centers and housing programs, McConnell made clear he wasn't interested in any further legislation to help struggling Americans.

"She needs to stand down on the notion that we're going to go along with taking advantage of the crisis to do things that are unrelated to the crisis," McConnell said.

Now it seems that applies to states in need as well — or at least the blue states McConnell doesn't care about.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

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(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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