Tuesday night debate on a bill to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) resolved nothing, and if anything made it more clear that the bill runs the risk of failing on Wednesday, as all Democratic speakers spoke out against it.
The bill, H.R. 672, is up Wednesday on the suspension calendar, which means two-thirds of all voting members to support it for passage. Republicans would likely need more than 40 Democrats to support the bill for passage, but Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas), one of the three Democratic members of the House Committee on Administration, predicted that Democrats would defeat the bill Wednesday.
The bill is touted by Republicans as a way to save at least $33 million over the next five years. They say the EAC, established in 2002 in reaction to the fierce partisan fighting over the 2000 presidential election, has already done its job of sending out grant money to states to upgrade old voting equipment and help states set voting standards.
“This is actually a clear and easy choice,” said Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.). “The EAC has accomplished that, paying out over $3 billion to states for those purposes.”
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) added that the EAC’s time has “come and gone,” and said Congress needs to take these sorts of steps in light of the looming fiscal crisis.
“Constituents are looking at us as they look for some glimmer that we understand the terrible fiscal situation we find ourselves in, and they’re looking for just the littlest, the smallest suggestion that we are going to be serious about the fiscal mess that we find ourselves in,” he said.
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) also noted that state election officials have told Congress the EAC should be repealed at this point. “When those who oversee elections call for the dissolution of an agency supposedly meant to be supporting their efforts, Congress should listen,” he said.
But Democrats continued to reject each of these arguments, and said ending the EAC would inevitably allow U.S. election standards to slide around the country. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the EAC continues to help election workers, and rejected GOP arguments that the agency was meant to be temporary.
“There was no intention to make this a temporary agency just for the distribution of grants,” he said. “It was an ongoing advisory agency to make sure that best practices were pursued, not because they can impose, but because they can advise.”