House GOP leader sees push for mail-in balloting as 'disgusting'

Kevin McCarthy wants the focus to be on "the health of the nation," not postal balloting. That makes far less sense than the GOP leader seems to realize.
Image: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., meets with reporters on Capitol Hill on Feb. 28, 2019.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., meets with reporters on Capitol Hill on Feb. 28, 2019.J. Scott Applewhite / AP
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By Steve Benen

On Capitol Hill, there are two economic aid packages under consideration. The first is focused primarily on helping small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program. The second is a more expansive "Phase IV" proposal that intends to extend the efforts included in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that passed a couple of weeks ago.

In the former, Democratic leaders have a narrow set of priorities, but in the latter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and their allies see an opportunity to address a wider range of concerns, including protecting Americans who wish to vote during a pandemic. The goal, of course, would be to utilize mail-in balloting to prevent a replay of this week's fiasco in Wisconsin on a national scale in the fall.

And according to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), those Democratic efforts are "disgusting." Politico reported late yesterday:

"You want to hold up the bill because you want to change election law for November, because you think that gives you some political benefit?" McCarthy told reporters during a press call Thursday. "That's disgusting to me.... Stop worrying about politics. Worry about what's in front of us. And that's the health of the nation ... and our economy."

The California Republican, echoing the White House, added that "there's also a lot of fraud" that can happen with mail-in voting.

Let's take a minute to unpack this, because it's important.

First, Democratic leaders are not "holding up" a bill, because at this point, the Phase IV economic aid package does not exist in earnest.

Second, there's nothing to suggest that voting by mail would give either party an inherent "political benefit." Even some Republican officials have publicly conceded that vote-by-mail has not hurt the GOP in elections in which it's been utilized.

Third, McCarthy's misplaced "disgust" notwithstanding, if the focus right now is going to be on "the health of the nation," then mail-in balloting deserves to be part of the conversation. Indeed, the New York Times noted this week that during the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "lists postal balloting as its first recommendation to reduce crowd size at polling stations."

In other words, allowing Americans to cast their votes via mail improves public safety during a public-health crisis. There's nothing "disgusting" about it.

As for McCarthy's odd assertion about "a lot of fraud" in mail-in balloting, repeating this bogus claim doesn't make it true.