Although their efforts have repeatedly been stalled by President Donald Trump’s and Republicans’ antics, newly in the majority House Democrats fulfilled one of their key promises this week, passing a sweeping ethics and government reform bill that had been the first to be introduced in the chamber in the new Congress. “H.R. 1” covers areas as wide-ranging as funding of political campaigns and presidential tax returns, seeking to unify points of concern among Democrats into a single, cohesive package.
Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has shot down the bill’s premise and made no indication he’ll bring it to the floor for a vote and there’s certainly no indication Trump would actually sign the measure if it did pass both chambers, it lays out a road map for future Democratic leaders including the possible next president.
As the Center for Popular Democracy’s co-executive director Jennifer Epps-Addison put it:
‘HR1, the For the People Act, is a step forward in ensuring that all of us, no matter who we vote for, what we look like, or what we believe, can have our voices heard in our democracy. It improves access to the ballot, strengthens electoral security, ends partisan gerrymandering, and bolsters oversight and accountability of elected officials. Democracy is best when all of us can participate in it.’
How has that sentiment become partisan? Republicans have dismissed the bill, arguing against points like its transformation of Election Day in November to a national holiday so that Americans can be more free to actually vote. It’s currently in the middle of the work week on a Tuesday because authorities from centuries ago thought that would give people enough time to travel to the ballot box after religious services. Republicans’ thinking is literally stuck centuries in the past.
Besides that provision, HR 1 also enacts high-profile measures like a requirement for presidents to release their tax returns, which Trump broke with decades of precedent in refusing to do. The documents would allow closer scrutiny of the president’s financial ties, which can easily impact his decision-making. Outside of the For the People Act, House Democrats have indicated they’re keen on getting Trump’s tax returns. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) got former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to explicitly say they should pursue the material during recent public Congressional testimony.
Besides these high-profile points, the Democrats’ newest legislative achievement includes the creation of a national voter registration system (which would help erase the effects of state-level suppression efforts from Republicans), increased scrutiny of donors to political organizations, and even the end of government-funded first class travel for government officials. Travel issues took down not one but three Trump Cabinet secretaries so far, all of whom resigned at least in part over scrutiny of their massive bills.
House Democrats have been pursuing multiple means besides HR 1 to hold the Trump administration accountable. An array of committee chairs are conducting sweeping investigations into the team’s practices — the intel panel’s Adam Schiff is examining possible foreign influence in the Trump team, the Judiciary Committee’s Jerry Nadler is looking at possible obstruction of justice, and the Oversight Committee’s Elijah Cummings has most recently been seeking answers about the White House’s security clearance process.
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