The Biden administration is stonewalling congressional efforts to peel back the curtain on the president's March 2021 executive order directing all executive agencies to develop plans to promote voter registration and participation in federal elections.
Multiple Republican lawmakers and staffers told the Washington Examiner that the administration's refusal to answer any questions about the order is leading them to suspect that President Joe Biden may be trying to improve his electoral prospects by using the power of the federal government to target specific sectors of the population for taxpayer-funded voter registration efforts.
"It’s disappointing, yet not surprising, that the Biden Administration doesn’t have answers to our straightforward questions," said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), the ranking member of the Committee on House Administration. "The bottom line is that we support every eligible American registering to vote. But these federal agencies don’t have the legal authority to go outside the scope of their missions to conduct political activities, and now that they’ve been called out for trying to do so, they are scrambling to explain their actions."
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Biden ordered all executive agencies in March 2021 to submit their voter registration and participation plans by September. Eight months have passed since that deadline, but the White House has only disclosed brief summaries of the plans submitted by 14 agencies.
Davis and the ranking members of eight other House committees demanded copies of all the federal agency plans in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice in late March. Young and Rice did not respond to the lawmakers by the letter's April 29 deadline.
Davis's letter followed a similar effort in January by Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC), who led a coalition of 36 House Republicans seeking copies of the federal agency plans to promote voter registration and participation.
Budd's letter to Young on the matter also went unanswered.
“It’s become quite clear that the Biden administration doesn’t want to answer any questions about their backdoor election takeover plan," Budd said. "Maybe that’s because the administration knows that the American people don’t want taxpayer-funded resources from federal agencies being used as tools to help the Democrat party. Our guiding principle needs to be an electoral system where it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat. The best way to achieve that is to let states lead and pursue their own election integrity measures."
The Biden administration has also stonewalled efforts from outside groups seeking information on the president's voter access order.
The Foundation for Government Accountability, a Florida-based think tank, filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in April seeking to compel the federal government to fork over records related to Biden's executive order.
The group's leaders, Tarren Bragdon and Stewart Whitson, said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed they had no choice but to file the lawsuit, as no executive agency has provided records related to its FOIA request, which was submitted in July.
"Promoting voter registration and participation—i.e., mobilizing voters—is an inherently political act for a partisan president," Bragdon and Whitson wrote. "The resulting efforts can be directed at groups expected to vote for the president’s party and may take the form of pressure to support the party or its policies."
"A president has every right to sway potential voters on the campaign trail. He has no right to influence them using the force of the federal government," Bragdon and Whitson added.
The White House did not return requests for comment.
Republican staffers who spoke with the Washington Examiner flagged concerns that lawmakers had with the known voter registration plans of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Small Business Administration.
The Department of Agriculture sent a memo on March 23 to all SNAP State Agencies ordering food stamp offices to train staffers to provide voter registration services to constituents.
A Republican staffer noted that SNAP offices already provide access to voter registration applications to constituents, but said that having the offices play an active role in processing those registrations is a step too far.
"This doesn't pass the smell test. We're using a federal benefits program to increase voter access? How does that make sense?" the staffer said. "You're running a food stamp office, not a voter registration service."
The staffer added that lawmakers are concerned that SNAP doesn't have the authority to use federal funds for voter registration purposes.
"It could very well be in line with what current law authorizes, but we're not getting the answers we want," the staffer said. "So until we get a response to our letter, much of this remains outstanding, and the perception is that this is a gray area."
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The staffers also said lawmakers are also concerned that the Small Business Administration is exceeding the scope of its mandate by moving in January to designate its district offices as voter agencies.