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GOP's Lee: Democracy reform bill effectively written 'by the devil'

For those skeptical of the inherent value of democracy, it's as if the For the People Act was "written in hell by the devil himself." Just ask Mike Lee.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell Testifies Before Joint Economic Committee
Senator Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah and chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Nov. 13, 2019.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Plenty of Republicans have condemned the Democrats' democracy-reform package, the For the People Act (H.R.1), but as TPM noted yesterday, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) used some unusual language when pushing back against the legislation.

"Everything about this bill is rotten to the core." Lee told "Fox & Friends" hosts in an interview earlier Wednesday about the HR 1 Bill. "This is a bill as if written in hell by the devil himself."

The Utah Republican added, "I disagree with every single word in HR1, including the words 'but' and 'the.'"

I'll put him down as a "maybe."

All joking aside, it's tempting to see Lee's rhetoric as just another GOP senator using over-the-top language to dismiss a Democratic proposal, but let's not brush past this too quickly. I think there's more to it.

For those unfamiliar with Mike Lee, the Utahan is one of those rare conservative Republicans who wears his skepticism toward democracy on his sleeve. It was just last fall, for example, when the senator raised a few eyebrows by insisting that the United States is "not a democracy" -- something he considers a good thing.

He went on to accuse Democrats of embracing "rank democracy," instead of his vision of personal "liberty."

In other words, it stands to reason that Lee would see the For the People Act as effectively demonic: H.R.1 is about protecting democracy, which the senator sees as a flawed goal. Ezra Klein added in his new column, "There is no doubt that Republicans perceive majoritarian democracy — 'rank democracy,' as Senator Mike Lee of Utah has called it — as a threat to their interests."

Quite right. In case anyone needs a refresher, the scope of Democrats' democracy reform package is quite extraordinary. The Brennan Center for Justice explained in a recent report, "If enacted, [H.R. 1] would be the most significant voting rights and democracy reform in more than half a century."

Several of the provisions relate to overhauling lobbying, ethics, campaign finance, and transparency laws, including requiring presidents to release their tax returns. But at the heart of the For the People Act is a series of reforms to protect and expand Americans' right to vote.

To that end, the legislation would, on a national scale, expand early and absentee voting. And establish a system of automatic voter registration. And modernize voting systems. And restrict voter-roll purges. And require independent commissions to draw the lines for congressional districts, weakening gerrymandering. The list keeps going, with plenty of related provisions.

For those eager to strengthen the integrity of our democracy, H.R.1 is the solution to a systemic problem. If you're skeptical of the inherent value of democracy, it's as if the For the People Act was "written in hell by the devil himself."