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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill after returning from the White House on January 02, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

'McConnell Is Afraid of Democracy': Progressives Push Senate Majority Leader to Stop Blocking Vote on HR1

"McConnell and the power elite are right to be frightened. H.R. 1 would upset the normal way of doing business in Washington."

Jake Johnson

Progressives are ramping up their pressure campaign against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in an effort to force a vote on the "For the People Act" when Congress returns from recess.

The bill, also known as H.R. 1, passed the Democratic House earlier this month without support from a single Republican. In a move that outraged pro-democracy organizations, McConnell vowed to stop the bill from getting a vote in the Senate.

Asked why he is blocking the legislation, McConnell said, "Because I get to decide what we vote on."

But progressive groups think there's a deeper reason at play: fear of democracy.

"McConnell and the power elite are right to be frightened," Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, wrote in an op-ed for the Las Vegas Sun on Monday. "H.R. 1 would upset the normal way of doing business in Washington. It would break corporate America's stranglehold over our government and curtail the shameful vote-suppressing activity increasing across the nation."

But McConnell should be more afraid of the consequences of stopping a vote on H.R. 1, Weissman argued, given the widespread desire for bold election reforms among the American public.

"Voters are desperate for far-reaching campaign finance and ethics reforms—divided only on whether the system should be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt. Voters are not likely to treat his obstructionism kindly," Weissman wrote. "They are likely to be especially outraged because H.R. 1 so effectively addresses what so many people are so outraged about and the shameful anti-democratic practices that so tarnish our nation."

Joining the grassroots pressure campaign, Democracy for America (DFA) launched a petition on Monday urging McConnell to stop blocking necessary reforms that would reduce corporate influence on elections and strengthen voting rights nationwide.

"H.R. 1 is truly a game changer, but in order for us to make it a reality, we need Mitch McConnell to bring it up for a vote in the Senate, and for enough Republicans to stand with Democrats on the right side of history," DFA said.

Efforts to convince McConnell to allow a vote on H.R. 1 come as Indivisible is holding recess actions nationwide, pressuring members of Congress to embrace a far-reaching slate of progressive legislation.

"We need to keep up the momentum," said Indivisible, which published a toolkit to help Americans find and organize events in their home districts. "Unlike when we've been on defense in the past and only focused on one issue, now that we're on offense we have several important issues to push forward."

Among these issues are big-ticket progressive goals like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, the For the People Act, and repeal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

"Whether an in-person district office visit, a town hall, or a media event, showing up in person during recess is key to making our movement's voice heard," Indivisible said. "It's critical that we show up and hold [members of Congress] accountable to move legislation that sets the tone for the rest of 2019 and beyond, from the Green New Deal and Medicare for All to the Dream Act, protections for [Temporary Protected Status] holders, and repeal of the Muslim ban."

Indivisible will not be alone in mobilizing during the latter half of March.

As Common Dreams reported, National Nurses United (NNU) is holding around 1,500 canvassing and phone-banking events in every congressional district this month and into April to build grassroots momentum for Medicare for All—and to put pressure on the 130 House Democrats who have not co-sponsored the ambitious legislation.

"Nurses take an oath to advocate for our patients, and we can think of no better way to advance their health and the health of our country than to be on the frontlines of organizing this nationwide social movement to win Medicare for All," NNU executive director Bonnie Castillo, RN, said in a statement.

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