Whatever else can be said about the Republican Senate health care bill, it cannot be accused of pandering. The Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) – which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) hopes to bring to a vote next week – is astonishingly unpopular, often getting less than 20 percent support in polls. There isn’t a single state in which a majority favors the GOP’s proposals. In a starkly polarized political environment, it’s almost impossible for a major proposal to be this widely hated. So why would the House pass a similar bill, and why didn’t McConnell immediately bury it? Many Republicans legislators are insulated from even the fiercest political backlash because the political playing field is tilted strongly towards the GOP side. Now the White House is about to make it even more so with a scheme to shrink the electorate and skew it towards the GOP.
In late June, the Trump administration announced a series of measures to constrict the body politic, making it older, whiter, and wealthier – and therefore more Republican. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is asking for detailed state data about voters. There already is evidence that merely asking for the data is stopping people from registering. Voting rights experts say that because voter rolls inevitably contain errors, such as still listing voters who recently moved, the Trump administration is likely planning to use these discrepancies to justify vote suppression efforts such as onerous identification requirements. (On Monday, while awaiting the outcome of legal challenges to the request and the refusal of some secretaries of state to comply, Trump’s commission put the request on hold.)
That same week, the White House nominated Hans von Spakovsky, who has a lengthy history of making unsupported claims of voter fraud, to join the election integrity commission. The commission is chaired by Kris Kobach, Kansas’s controversial secretary of state, whose signature voter-ID bill, passed by his state’s legislature in 2011, has already been subject to four separate lawsuits by the ACLU. The commission was organized to find support for Trump’s unfounded claim that, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Its efforts thus far are designed to justify state vote suppression measures that harm Democrats without actually making election results any more reliable.