1/21 The Rebuilding Begins

Published: 1.21.21

Yesterday, a new administration entered the White House, completing a transfer of power that was peaceful, but that departed from tradition in some notable ways. There were no significant or violent protests Wednesday as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took the oath of office on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, a testament to the preparedness of local, state, and federal law enforcement officials who mounted an unprecedented security effort in response to credible violent threats following the January 6th attack. While leaders across the country remain on high alert, yesterday’s inauguration was a great success. Yet, the fact that the White House has new residents does not mean that the work of protecting democracy comes to a close; to the contrary, a new chapter begins.

In a powerful op-ed in Newsweek, Christine Todd Whitman, former Governor of New Jersey and VPP advisory board member, details the work necessary to protect against future attacks on our democracy.Whitmandescribes the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol as a “wake up call” for all Americans, and urges state and federal leaders to meet the dangers of misinformation-fueled extremism head-on. “Before the next terrifying tragedy fills our television screens, in state capitals or our nation’s capital, let’s be prepared. Let’s uphold our laws. Let’s speak the truth as loud and as often as we can.”

Today, District of Columbia AG Karl Racine led a coalition of 18 Attorneys General in defending a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) before the U.S. Supreme Court. The coalition filed an amicus brief in two SCOTUS cases, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee and Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee, arguing that Section 2 of the VRA protects against racial barriers to voting and does not infringe state sovereignty. The coalition argues that the Court should maintain the test’s standards, rather than narrowing it or altogether striking down the critical voting rights legislation.

National Update

Impeachment: A definitive timeline for former-President Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate is still unknown. This afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed a start date at the beginning of February, giving Trump’s legal team a little more than a week to prepare. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has yet to accept this proposal. Earlier today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she would send impeachment proceedings to the Senate “soon,” perhaps as early as tomorrow. Several Democrats have suggested that Pelosi will wait to send the article of impeachment until Schumer and McConnell decide on the Senate’s power-sharing agreement. In the meantime, Trump has hired South Carolina-based lawyer Butch Bowers as his legal representation for the trial, surprising legal experts who assumed he would opt for his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

Senate Confirmation Hearings: The Senate hearings to approve Biden’s cabinet nominees are underway, and Senate Republicans have already indicated that the process will not be quick or easy. Yesterday, the Senate confirmed just one of Biden’s picks, Avril Haines, to serve as Director of National Intelligence. Despite heightened national security concerns, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) blocked a procedural move to streamline consideration of Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s nominee for the Department of Homeland Security,  all but ensuring a lengthier confirmation process. Multiple other cabinet picks hang in the balance as McConnell and Schumer reach an agreement on organizing the Senate.

For the People Act: On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer confirmed that the For the People Act would be the first bill introduced in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The bill proposes an array of democracy reforms, to make it easier to vote, increase elected officials’ transparency, and prioritize election security. By designating this bill as their first piece of legislation, Senate Democrats sent a strong message to those seeking to intimidate voters and sow distrust of the system. After months of election misinformation and legislative restrictions on voting rights, the bill’s provisions aim to restore trust in the electoral process and increase protections for the democratic system.The For the People Act passed the House last year, but stalled in a GOP-controlled Senate.

State Updates

Pennsylvania: Today,Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar testified during a House committee hearing to confirm, once again, that the 2020 election in Pennsylvania was free, fair, and secure. For months, state GOP lawmakers have called the integrity of the election into question, repeatedly making false claims about election security. During her testimony, Secretary Boockvar separated fact from fiction and reiterated that Pennsylvania’s election was secure, in both her testimony and an accompanying op-ed. This is just the first in a long series of hearings in which GOP leaders in the Pennsylvania General Assembly will seek  to rehash debunked theories about the 2020 election. Today, state Senators Doug Mastriano and Pat Stefano announced plans to repeal the “no excuse mail-in ballot” provision that passed last session with bipartisan support. The senators note a “rogue [state] Supreme Court” as part of their reasoning.

Michigan: Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey recently revealed he met with militia leaders before the FBI uncovered the plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The meetings — coupled with past comments Shirkey has made — raise the troubling possibility that Shirkey might have credible ties to these militia groups. The Michigan Democratic Party recognized the state security threat these potential ties pose and called for an investigation into the extent of Shirkey’s involvement with these groups. AG Dana Nessel called for the FBI to get involved, tweeting “If he is having secret meetings with anti-government groups, this is a big concern & the FBI should take an interest and find out what discussions have taken place and with who.”

Alabama: In the aftermath of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, multiple companies vowed to suspend some or all political contributions to politicians who refused to certify the Electoral College results. Among the lawmakers impacted by the decision are four Alabama Congressmen who voted to overturn the will of voters during the January 6th Joint Session of Congress. During the 2020 election cycle, the quartet received $262,500 in political contributions from companies that will no longer contribute to their campaigns.

Social Media:

Follow the Voter Protection Program on Twitter to stay updated on the latest voter protection news!