Top congressional Democrats are promising to include much more money for healthy elections in the next coronavirus response package they're pushing. But Republicans' resistance to quickly writing such a bill is intensifying, obscuring their level of interest in additional spending to expand voting by mail, early voting and online registration.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday the measure her House majority has started putting together would provide at least $1.6 billion on top of the $400 million included in the economic rescue package passed last week.
Dozens of groups advocating for voting rights and the broader democracy reform agenda have coalesced behind that funding level as their singular focus during the pandemic, arguing that conducting a normal and trustworthy election in November will be impossible otherwise.
But Republicans in control of the Senate say they're in no rush to draft another stimulus bill, and state officials say significant delay could make it impossible to spend additional aid in time.
Progressive democracy reform groups are seizing on a brief comment from President Trump as smoking gun evidence Republicans oppose making it easier to vote because they fear doing worse with bigger turnout.
Preventing election fraud has been the GOP's singular public reasoning for supporting tight rules of access to the ballot box. Democrats and voting rights groups say that's a subterfuge, noting the scant evidence of criminality and the solid evidence that more people voting means fewer wins for Republicans.
Trump openly embraced that concept Monday when discussing proposals he said he blocked from the coronavirus economic rescue package — emphasizing his rebuff of the $2 billion Democrats sought to pay for nationwide voting-at-home, online registration and expanded early voting in person.
Open government advocates and Democratic leaders in Congress are angry the Trump administration seems to be walking away from crucial transparency language in the economic stabilization package.
Aside from the funds to make voting safer and more convenient this fall, the democracy reform movement was pleased most by a provision in the law creating an independent watchdog to oversee a $500 billion fund to bail out companies crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.
But after signing the $2 trillion package last week, President Trump signaled he would decide what this inspector general could share with the public and Congress. And when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sought Sunday to dispel concerns about government accountability in administering the biggest domestic economic relief package in American history, he refused to pledge that the IG would be permitted to testify on Capitol Hill.