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Klobuchar leads Senate panel in first field hearing in 20 years on voting rights

Georgia was one of the first states to pass major voting restrictions after last year's election.
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ATLANTA — The Senate Rules Committee is holding its first field hearing in 20 years here Monday to examine voting rights issues, including the state's restrictive new law.

"This is absurd. This is not America. So what we need to do is make it easier for people to vote, not harder," Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in an interview with NBC News on Monday.

Georgia's new law adds a host of new election regulations, like requiring identification for mail voting and making it illegal to take food or water to voters in line. Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed the bill into law earlier this year, calling it "common sense" legislation.

The hearing, which began at 10 a.m., will feature testimony from Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., as well as a mix of local elected officials and voters. No Republican members of the committee are expected to attend.

Klobuchar's move comes as national Democrats are under pressure to act on voting rights, but have few options in Congress as most Republicans have opposed federal legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the hearing a "silly stunt" in a statement Monday.

Democrats "pretend that moderate, mainstream state voting laws with more generous early voting provisions than blue states like New York are some kind of evil assault on our democracy," McConnell, a member of the panel, said.

The hearing also takes place days after the first anniversary of the death of Rep. John Lewis, the longtime congressman from Georgia and civil rights leader who was beaten as a young man during a march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, in 1965.

Meanwhile, a large group of Texas Democrats remain in Washington in an effort to block the Republican majority from passing voting restrictions in their state, and have planned a week of events around ballot access.