The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said: “One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new (Biden) administration.” Accordingly, McConnell, along with all GOP Senators, blocked consideration of a voting rights bill, “For the People Act.” Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson called the legislation a “power grab”, scurrilously saying: “It seems like Democrats primarily want to make it easier to cheat.” Similar to Johnson’s false claims about “voting irregularities” in the 2020 presidential election. However, Wisconsin Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin is on the right side of history: “We need to pass voting rights legislation and we can’t let obstructionists block us from delivering results for the American people.”
Almost 20 states, including Wisconsin, have passed “anti-voter” laws according to the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab. The theme for many GOP-led legislatures seems to be if Republicans can’t win elections then restrict turnout from Democratic voters. Moreover, Wisconsin GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, ignoring separation of powers, is acting like he is also the state attorney general, putting together his own election investigative unit to cast aspersions on the 2020 election. Outrageous.
Besides blocking a national voter rights bill, Johnson simultaneously opposed D.C. statehood, saying: “To me, this just seems like a naked power grab.” And, Johnson harangued D.C. Democratic Black Mayor Muriel Bowser. Once again, Johnson became unglued by a competent and strong woman. Back to the 1950s. D.C.’s 700,0000 citizens pay federal taxes and serve in the military, but are denied voting representation in Congress. It’s wrong.
Not all Republicans are like Johnson. Former Wisconsin Representatives Tom Petri and Reid Ribble joined “A Call for American Renewal.” The group said: “The Jan. 6 insurrection was a wakeup call for many who had remained loyal to the party (GOP), even while harboring concerns about its direction. Many have since left. The GOP has effectively become a privileged third party, ranking behind independents and Democrats in voter registration. Meanwhile, Republican legislators are trying to impede voting rights across the country as a last-ditch effort to retain power.” However, Petri and Ribble still stand with Lincoln.
But all was not lost last week. President Biden and a bipartisan group of 10 senators agreed to an infrastructure deal. “If passed by Congress, the $973 billion bipartisan agreement to fund roads, bridges, (water) pipes, transmission lines and broadband over five years will be the largest package of spending on the country’s infrastructure in modern history” (Washington Post). The deal also includes significant funding for Amtrak, other mass transit and efforts to fight climate change. Moreover, it also increases enforcement funding for the IRS so the wealthy pay their fair share. Biden said: “This agreement signals to the world that we can function, deliver and do significant things.”
Substantial work remains to secure congressional passage. There will be ups and downs in passing this “transformative” deal. Some like Johnson will stand in the way: “I’d do what I could to frustrate its passage.” Don’t let this consistent reactionary block bipartisan progress, economic security and jobs.
–Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.