Ossoff says GOP misinformation fuels opposition to federal elections bill

WASHINGTON — Republicans put up stiff opposition during a congressional hearing Wednesday to a sweeping bill Democrats are pushing addressing elections, campaign finance and redistricting.

The GOP resistance included repeating unsubstantiated claims, first advanced by then-President Donald Trump, that irregularities in the 2020 election had led to his defeat.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita testified that the election had been mismanaged and susceptible to fraud, allegations Trump supporters have tried using to overturn the result. He described those claims as justification for why so many states, including Georgia, are now attempting to pass new voting restrictions.

That didn’t sit well with Georgia U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff when it came time for him to speak. He called Rokita’s testimony harmful and misleading.

“I take exception to the comments that you just made, Mr. Rokita, that public concern regarding the integrity of the recent election is born of anything but a deliberate and sustained misinformation campaign led by a vain former president unwilling to accept his own defeat, who, rather than observing the sacred tradition and necessary process of a peaceful transition of power for a losing candidate for the presidency, undertook a scorched-earth effort to undermine public confidence in the integrity of our elections,” Ossoff said.

The exchange between Ossoff and Rokita was among several tense moments during the five-hour hearing held by the U.S. Senate Rules Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell both made rare committee appearances to speak on the bill, indicating its high profile. Schumer reinforced that the legislation, also known as S.1 or the For the People Act, is a high priority for him and would be brought to a vote on the Senate floor.

He said states such as Georgia have proved why new federal election laws are needed, mentioning earlier proposals by Republicans in the state’s General Assembly to prohibit early voting on Sunday.

“Every one of us — Democrat, Republican, liberal and conservative — knows what the Georgia Legislature is doing,” said Schumer, a New York Democrat. “They don’t even have a good justification for it. This is infuriating.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt pointed out Georgia lawmakers have since altered their voting bills so that Sunday early voting would still be an option in counties. That demonstrated that states are open to moderate their positions without federal intervention, he said.

Republicans on the Senate committee said the changes outlined in S. 1 would infringe on states’ rights to set their own rules while overwhelming election officials with far-reaching changes that had to be implemented quickly.

Without 10 Republican senators willing to support the measure, it is likely to be blocked by a filibuster.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified in favor of the bill during a panel discussion. He said the changes contained in S. 1 are needed to help protect civil rights and voting access today much like the 1965 Voting Rights Act was in response to the Jim Crow era.

“The events of the past few months have brought into stark focus what has been true for too long: There is a large and powerful faction in this country intent on retaining power,” Holder said. “It will bend or break the rules of our democracy in order to do so.”

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