May 19, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Democrats tee up showdown with GOP over non-citizen voting

The U.S. Capitol and its reflection seen from a House office building on a sunny day.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

House Democratic leadership is formally pushing its members to vote against a Republican bill that would block a Washington, D.C. law allowing non-citizen voting in local elections, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: It sets up a politically charged showdown this week on immigration and D.C. home rule that could see some Democrats split from their leadership.

  • This dynamic has played out repeatedly in the 118th Congress – with House Republicans using their majority to try to overturn progressive D.C. laws and squeeze Democrats in the process.
  • Republicans' campaign apparatus has made these fights especially difficult for vulnerable Democrats by targeting those who vote against repealing D.C. laws on crime and immigration.

Driving the news: In a whip question sent to House Democrats on Saturday night, a copy of which was obtained by Axios, House Minority Whip Katherine Clark's (D-Mass.) office said lawmakers are "urged to VOTE NO" on the four-page bill.

  • That means Democratic leadership will officially send their whip team to try to get as many of their members as possible to vote against the bill.
  • The whip question noted that "16 other jurisdictions across the U.S. have enacted similar provisions" allowing non-citizen voting and that "nearly all House Democrats have voted in the past in support of D.C.'s right for self-governance and statehood."
  • "House Republicans are once again attempting to undermine the political self-determination of the nearly 700,000 residents of Washington, D.C.," it added.

Zoom in: The vote, slated for either Wednesday or Thursday, will mark the second time House Republicans have tried to overturn non-citizen voting in D.C.

  • Last February, shortly after Republicans took power, the House voted 260-162 to overturn the ordinance, but that repeal measure did not get a vote in the Senate.
  • The measure got 42 Democratic votes, including from 25 lawmakers who have co-sponsored legislation to grant statehood to D.C., Axios' Cuneyt Dil reported.

The backdrop: Republicans have repeatedly used their House majority to target D.C. laws they see as overly liberal, even trying to counter some local traffic laws in the government funding process.

Zoom out: Republicans have increased their focus on non-citizen voting in recent weeks.

  • As he faced right-wing threats to his job, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) led an attempt to crack down on the virtually non-existent problem of non-citizen voting in federal elections, which is already illegal.
  • It's an issue previously championed by another Republican heavy-hitter: former President Donald Trump.

Between the lines: The bill is no more likely to make it out of the Senate, or past President Biden's desk than Republicans' repeal attempt last year, but Republicans still see it as good fodder for the 2024 campaign.

  • National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Will Reinert said Democrats "are already on the record supporting giving illegal migrants the right to vote and any change in their position is just disgusting election-year politics."
  • "We will be watching and holding these frauds accountable if they try to pull the wool over voters' eyes."

Editor's note: The story has been corrected to reflect that Rep. Katherine Clark is the House minority whip (not the minority leader).

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