In The News
House Democrats have proposed mandating that states send all voters a ballot in the case of emergencies — in their most recent coronavirus relief package, dubbed the HEROES Act, along with other sweeping changes to the elections. The bill would also require universal “no-excuse” absentee voting, online and same-day voter registration and expanded early voting, among other changes. In broad strokes, Americans support the expansion of no-excuse absentee voting. A recent Pew Research Center found seven in 10 adults supported allowing any voter to vote by mail if they want to…. The election administration reforms in the package would likely be one of many points of contention. McConnell strongly opposed Democrats’ expansive election reform bill H.R. 1, which contained some of the same reforms included in the HEROES Act and was passed on a party line vote in the House in early 2019. Democrats argue that the public widely supports their proposals — and that the election security grant funding mechanism included in the HEROES Act is of critical importance. “On balance, [voters] think voting by mail is a good idea, and that we ought to expand that opportunity. They also, based on preference or access or other factors, want to make sure that there’s going to be some meaningful in-person voting opportunities,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who helped shepherd H.R. 1 through the House last year. Sarbanes and other Democrats also said all forms of voting need to be available in November. Those include "expanded vote by mail, significant early voting opportunities, and then safe in-person voting opportunities on Election Day," he said. "We need all three of those things.” House Democrats are seeking to allocate $3.6 billion in additional funding to election officials to help prepare their states for holding elections in the middle of the pandemic. The first CARES relief package included $400 million for that purpose. Some outside groups are pressing for more funding for state and local election officials, arguing that time is running short.
A group of House and Senate Democrats seeking stronger oversight of the massive coronavirus relief programs is introducing a new bill to force companies to publicly report how they're using the funds, and to beef up the oversight of the small business aid program. Introduced by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Chris Coons, D-Del., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., the proposal would strengthen some of the key watchdog provisions in the original $2.3 trillion CARES Act, according to a review of the bill obtained by ABC News. The measure would require the Small Business Administration to publicly report information on lenders and recipients in the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses every week, in an effort to add transparency to an initiative that was criticized for initially allowing large, publicly-traded companies to participate in the program. It would also expand the jurisdiction of the Congressional Oversight Commission -- appointed by Hill leaders to monitor the Treasury and Federal Reserve programs -- to include all spending, including the Paycheck Protection Program. The proposal, which is being introduced by Reps. John Sarbanes, D-Md., and Pramila Jayapal D-Wash., in the House, would also codify the Federal Reserve's plans to release the names and amounts borrowed in their coronavirus lending programs and require borrowers to share how the funds are being used, along with information about compensation and their workforce -- such as executive salaries and bonuses.
Democratic members of Congress from Maryland and Virginia put forward a long list of ideas on Thursday that they hope to include in the next coronavirus relief bill. Many of the members said their top priority is additional money for state and local governments, which are struggling to provide social services for their residents during the crisis as they expect to take in far less tax revenue.... Rep. John Sarbanes (Md.) pointed out that local governments need funds to hire contact tracers, as Baltimore County is doing.
Rep. Tom Malinowski , D-7, on Friday, May 1, hosted a virtual forum called "Defending Our Vote & Combating Corruption" on protecting democracy and expressing the need for voting by mail, campaign finance reform, and not forcing voters to choose between voting rights and their health. Malinowski was joined by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force, and Tiffany Muller, president and executive director of End Citizens United and Let America Vote, for a virtual forum on protecting democracy and defending the vote during the coronavirus pandemic and while combating the influence of special interests…. "I ran on those issues. We demanded that our future Congressional leadership, if we were elected, take this up as their top priority and indeed, after we were elected, under Congressman Sarbanes' leadership, we drafted a bill called HR 1 – the first bill introduced in the house in that term – that took on ethics reform, that took on campaign finance and dark money in our politics that took on partisan gerrymandering. We passed it in the House and as I suppose one might have predicted it has ever since been blocked by the main opponent of reform in our country today – Sen. Mitch McConnell, leader of the United States Senate…. Sarbanes said there needs to be a new way of funding campaigns where the people are in charge and where they own the system and where they own the priorities when it comes to policy. "We're going to go to the people that have broken our democracy by leaning on it the big corporations and the wealthy and we're going to have them be the ones to pay to fix this democracy because that's how it ought to work," Sarbanes said. "So let's take back control of how policies made in Washington by having a people step up and own the system."
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., pointed on Sunday to President Trump's intention to oust another inspector general — this time a Department of Health and Human Services watchdog — to bolster his call for the next coronavirus legislative relief package to include measures to "forestall fraud and favoritism." Blumenthal, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Reps. John Sarbanes, D-Md., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., unveiled the details of their proposal to congressional leadership on Friday, urging them to "include strong oversight, accountability, and anti-corruption provisions in any upcoming legislation to provide economic aid, relief, recovery, or stimulus in response to COVID-19 in order to safeguard taxpayer funds and to bolster Americans' faith in government to respond to this crisis."
More than $9 million is being directed to COVID-19 housing relief for Marylanders for tenant-based housing voucher recipients. The full Maryland congressional delegation, which includes U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John P. Sarbanes, Andy Harris, M.D., Anthony G. Brown, Jamie B. Raskin and David Trone, announced the funding on Thursday. The funding comes from the CARES Act, which is provided $1.25 billion nationwide for tenant-based rental assistance to help with the Housing Choice Voucher program. It includes $400 million for increased subsidy costs, which are paid directly to landlords and $850 million for administration and other expenses incurred by public housing authorities to “support or maintain the health and safety of assisted individuals and families, and costs related to retention and support of participating owners. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant financial hardships for Americans – especially those in our most vulnerable communities,” the delegation said in a statement. “These new federal funds will help low-income Marylanders keep a roof over their heads at a time when they may be facing job losses and reduced income. Our delegation will continue to work together to ensure that federal assistance makes its way to the people who need it most.” The new funding will also go to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.
Johns Hopkins University’s global COVID-19 tracker, which has served as a valuable tool for tracking the coronavirus since the map was publicly released in January, is getting a $200,000 injection of federal funding. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger and John P. Sarbanes, Democrats who represent Maryland, made the announcement Wednesday. “Accurate, real-time information about the spread of COVID-19 in each and every community is critical for our response to the pandemic. The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard remains the foremost tracking resource for public health experts and policymakers nationwide,” the lawmakers said in a release. “We are committed to delivering sustained federal support to this important project.”
Members of the Maryland congressional delegation urged President Trump to allow the state to use federal facilities, such as Fort Meade and the National Institutes of Health, for coronavirus testing. In a letter to the president, the delegation said that designating the National Capital Region as a federally supported testing site is critical for the increased testing needed to reopen the region. “In order to be able to first mitigate the outbreak and subsequently begin restarting our economy, we must utilize the full and complete testing resources that we have at the federal and state level,” the letter reads. “These labs can be key to ensuring the state’s recovery plan is successful and we get Marylanders back to work as safely and quickly as possible.” ... The congressional letter is signed by Reps. Anthony G. Brown (D), Steny H. Hoyer (D), Andy Harris (R), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D), John Sarbanes (D), Jamie B. Raskin (D), David Trone (D) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D). The lawmakers note that Vice President Pence on April 20 said that federal laboratories will be made available to states across the country.