Johnson, Trump Announce Election Integrity Bill to Require Proof of Citizenship to Vote
Johnson, Trump Announce Election Integrity Bill to Require Proof of Citizenship to Vote

By Samantha Flom

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and former President Donald Trump are urging support for a bill aimed at preventing non-citizens from voting in federal elections.

At a Friday, April 12, press conference at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence, the Republican leaders announced the bill as part of larger efforts to bolster election integrity.

“What we’re going to do is introduce legislation to require that every single person who registers to vote in a federal election must prove that they are an American citizen first,” Mr. Johnson said.

Though some jurisdictions allow noncitizens to participate in local elections, it is illegal for them to vote in all state and federal elections. However, the United States’ federal voter registration form does not require documentary proof of citizenship, and states’ efforts to impose such a requirement have been challenged by the Biden administration.

The new legislation, the speaker said, would establish new safeguards to ensure only citizens can vote. The provisions would require states to remove noncitizens from their voter rolls and would provide them with access to Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration databases to help them do so.

“Congress has this responsibility. We cannot wait for widespread fraud to occur … especially when the threat of fraud is growing with every single illegal immigrant that crosses that border,” the speaker said.

He added that he expected the bill to receive widespread Republican support while also forcing Democrats to go on record with where they stand.

‘The Tip of the Iceberg’

The push to secure elections from illegal votes comes amid the flood of illegal immigrants pouring across the southern border.

Illegal immigration, though a persistent problem for decades, has exploded to unprecedented levels under the Biden administration. The deluge has included individuals on the United States’ terror watch list and others with prior convictions for violent crimes.

Republicans have repeatedly said that President Joe Biden has the power to end the crisis but simply chooses not to. President Trump repeated that claim Friday, asserting that the president could and should “close the border immediately.”

“As a citizen, I demand the border has to be closed. Our country cannot take it. No country could take it. It’s not sustainable by any country.”

In an interview that aired Tuesday night, President Biden told Univision’s Enrique Acevedo that he was exploring his authority to close the border but added that there is “no guarantee” that he has that power.

Republicans have also suggested that the president deliberately created the crisis for political purposes. Earlier this week, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) accused the administration of facilitating the border crisis to gift Democrats an advantage in both the Electoral College and Congress.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that suggestion was “nothing short of preposterous.”

On Shaky Ground

While the focus of Friday’s press conference was election integrity, the optics of the GOP’s de facto leader standing united with Mr. Johnson on any issue could not come at a more crucial time for the embattled speaker.

Intraparty tensions over his handling of the congressional spending battle have left his hold on the gavel in doubt. And his support for legislation reauthorizing controversial spying powers in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) without requiring a warrant to surveil U.S. citizens hasn’t helped.

Before meeting with President Trump, Mr. Johnson voted alongside 125 other Republicans and 147 Democrats to pass the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act. The bill would reauthorize FISA Section 702 for two years, but with added restrictions on its use, including requiring congressional notification—and in some cases, permission—for queries involving members of Congress. The measure includes no such protections for other Americans.

The bill in question was opposed by President Trump and many among the GOP’s right flank in Congress, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). For Ms. Greene, the speaker’s support for the measure was just another bullet point on her growing list of reasons to oust him.

“He has not done the job that we elected him to do. And I told him that,” the congresswoman told reporters after an April 10 meeting with Mr. Johnson.

Ms. Greene filed a motion to remove Mr. Johnson from the speaker’s chair on March 22, as he joined with Democrats to approve a $1.2 trillion spending package and avert a government shutdown. The pair’s latest meeting was meant to provide an opportunity for them to hash out their differences, but according to Ms. Greene, no resolution was reached.

“We didn’t walk out with a deal,” she said outside the speaker’s office. “I explained to him that, and he acknowledged, that as a Republican member of the House, I pretty much have the best view of how the base feels and what Republican voters want.”

Mr. Johnson, who has referred to Ms. Greene as “a friend,” has acknowledged her frustrations while also contending that his power is limited due to the GOP’s razor-thin House majority.

“We will never get 100 percent of what we want and believe is necessary for the country because that’s the reality,” he told reporters heading into their meeting. “It’s a matter of math, and in the Congress, the numbers, the votes that are available.”

Jackson Richman contributed to this report.

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