Part of a broader package of voting rights, ethics reforms, and campaign finance changes, an idea from Democrats in Congress to make Election Day a federal holiday - in order to increase voter turnout - has spurred sharp attacks from Republicans in Congress, who have accused Democrats of trying to use that and other election changes to tilt elections in their favor.
"Their bill would make Election Day a new paid holiday for government workers," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday, as he denounced the broader election reform efforts by Democrats as a 'power grab.'
"Just what America needs, another paid holiday," McConnell said derisively, part of a broader GOP attack on the broader voting rights package from Democrats, which had its first hearing this week before a House committee.
"They want to make Election Day a holiday - a paid holiday - for federal employees," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) with a note of outrage in his voice on the floor of the House Wednesday. "This is not the respect taxpayers deserve."
In a sharp attack on the Democratic bill - which would seem to have little chance of coming up for a vote in the GOP-led Senate, Majority Leader McConnell ridiculed it as a "Democrat Politician Protection Act."
In a second straight day of criticism from the Senate floor of the House bill, McConnell said the "sprawling proposal is basically the far left’s entire Christmas wish list where our nation’s political process is concerned."
Republicans have also attacked a provision in the Democratic bill, which would allow federal workers to take off up to six days - without losing annual leave or pay from their jobs - in order to train and then serve at polling places on Election Day.
In his speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, McConnell labeled it a 'brand-new paid leave benefit of up to six days for any federal bureaucrat who decides they’d like to hang out at the polls during any election.'
Democrats said the opposition of Republicans to some of the ideas to help boost voter turnout was telling.
"If your political party will be hurt by more people voting, you need to change your party, not prevent people from voting," said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL).
"Voting isn’t a “power grab”. It’s democracy, and it’s literally the entire point of our representative government," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
"The GOPs greatest nightmare: people actually voting," said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY).
"You shouldn't have to choose between going to work and playing a critical role in our democracy," said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).
"People should not be forced to choose between their job or family and exercising their right to vote," said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), who introduced the same language as a standalone bill, the 'Election Day Holiday Act.'
The idea of a national holiday for Election Day is not new; President John F. Kennedy tapped a special panel to look at voting reforms, which suggested that "states should consider declaring the day a half-day legal holiday."
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