In The News

February 24, 2021

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) led a coalition of 21 attorneys general in support of a federal election reform Tuesday. In a letter to congressional leadership, Frosh and his fellow attorneys general urged the passage of the “For the People Act” being spearheaded by Rep. John D. Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Sen. Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Or.). That proposal aims to make voting more accessible and crack down on gerrymandering. “America faces a stark choice — whether to pursue the reforms necessary to make this country a functional multiracial democracy, or to accept the systemic and accelerating disenfranchisement of Black and other minority voters,” the letter reads. Sarbanes’ bill includes a slew of election reforms, such as requiring states to offer same-day registration and requiring at least 15 days of early voting for federal elections. It would also include reforms aimed at transparency, including to require presidential candidates to publicly disclose their tax-returns…. Sarbanes previously said the 2020 elections should serve as an example of why such reform is needed.

February 23, 2021

House Democrats are preparing to pass sweeping legislation to revamp election and campaign finance rules next week on a party-line vote that portends an uphill battle in the Senate, where it faces stiff Republican opposition. Supporters of the bill (H.R. 1) announced Monday that all 221 House Democrats signed on to the nearly 800-page measure that would ease voting rules and strengthen restrictions on money in politics, including provisions on guaranteeing voting by mail, public campaign funding, and automatic voter registration.... Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the lead sponsor and coordinator of action on the Democratic bill, pointed specifically to Republican state legislatures across the country advancing “a record number of voter suppression schemes in a blatant attempt to silence the voices of Americans — especially in communities of color — and block people from voting in our elections.” In an emailed comment, Sarbanes said congressional Democrats “remain united and committed in our effort to swiftly pass H.R. 1 and prevent these insidious, Republican-led efforts from taking effect.”

February 23, 2021

House Democrats are preparing to pass sweeping legislation to revamp election and campaign finance rules next week on a party-line vote that portends an uphill battle in the Senate, where it faces stiff Republican opposition. Supporters of the bill (H.R. 1) announced Monday that all 221 House Democrats signed on to the nearly 800-page measure that would ease voting rules and strengthen restrictions on money in politics, including provisions on guaranteeing voting by mail, public campaign funding, and automatic voter registration.... House Democrats say they want to pass a bill in time for the 2022 elections, when the party will defend narrow majorities in both chambers. But even if it falls short in the Senate, the effort could help reinforce voting rights and anti-corruption messages they believe resonate with their base voters. It could also help counter Republican efforts at the state level to restrict certain voting procedures, such as mail-in ballots. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the lead sponsor and coordinator of action on the Democratic bill, pointed specifically to Republican state legislatures across the country advancing “a record number of voter suppression schemes in a blatant attempt to silence the voices of Americans — especially in communities of color — and block people from voting in our elections.” In an emailed comment, Sarbanes said congressional Democrats “remain united and committed in our effort to swiftly pass H.R. 1 and prevent these insidious, Republican-led efforts from taking effect.”

February 22, 2021

Every House Democrat has signed onto a new voting rights act that would expand early voting, create automatic voting registration systems, and simplify voting by mail as some of its many reforms.... Democracy Reform Task Force Chair Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland announced Monday that all 221 Democrats in the House of Representatives are supporting the measure. 'House Democrats are united in our steadfast commitment to advance transformational anti-corruption and clean election reforms by swiftly passing H.R. 1,' he said in a statement. 'Our historic reform effort will end decades of dysfunction in Washington, return power to the people and build a more just, equitable and prosperous country for all Americans.'

February 22, 2021

Democrats have control of the House and Senate, and they want to use it to reform elections and make it easier to vote. But first, they’ll have to get past Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Congressional Democrats are pushing a sweeping package of voting rights, gerrymandering, election, campaign finance and ethics reforms, called the For the People Act. It’s listed as H.R. 1 in the House and S. 1 in the Senate, signifying that it is Democrats’ top legislative priority. For the past two decades, every bill labeled both H.R. 1 and S. 1 has become law. If the For the People Act is to pass, though, Democrats will need to surmount the one obstacle clogging up almost all legislation that doesn’t directly affect the federal budget: the filibuster. Democrats hold only 50 votes ― plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ to break ties ― and Republicans could easily use the filibuster to prevent voting reform. McConnell, who previously called the legislation “socialism” and a “power grab,” blocked it from a Senate vote in 2019.... Former President Barack Obama, Democratic lawmakers and activists are already paving the way to make that argument. At the funeral for civil rights hero and Democratic Rep. John Lewis last summer, Obama called the filibuster a “Jim Crow relic” and said that if Republicans dared to filibuster legislation to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act (a bill that is now named for Lewis), Democrats should not hesitate to eliminate the filibuster to pass the bill. The same could be argued of the For the People Act: Lewis and his staff wrote the entire first section, which greatly expands voting rights and limits voter suppression tactics. These reforms are all the more vital now, Democrats argue, as Republicans seek to pass new voter restrictions at the state level, spurred on by former President Donald Trump’s voter fraud lies. If Democrats don’t pull off these reforms now, they could be too late. They intend that the For the People Act become law. Whatever it takes. “It’s all systems go to try to make that happen,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the bill’s chief sponsor in the House.

February 22, 2021

House Democrats want to make sweeping changes to campaign finance and election law, and that begins with H.R. 1, the “For The People Act.” It passed in the House but languished in the GOP-controlled Senate in 2019 — this is round two.... “The bill contains the reforms we need to restore democracy,” said Daniel Weiner, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Election Reform Program. He considers it a historic piece of election reform legislation he likens to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which the bill references. “We strongly support this bill.” H.R. 1 includes election, campaign finance, anti-corruption and voter registration measures. It also makes statehood for Washington, D.C. more attainable.... Weiner sees the bill as a victory for both sides of the aisle. “The reason this bill needs to be a top priority is because the proper functioning of our democracy affects pretty much every other issue that people care about,” he said. “You would see an election system in which everyone who is eligible has a meaningful opportunity to participate, and in which the priorities of ordinary voters on both the left and the right take more precedence over entrenched interests.” Introduced in the House on Jan. 4 by Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.) and referred to committee, the bill has garnered 217 co-sponsors and is expected to come before the full House first, followed then by the Senate in the spring. “H.R.1. , in many respects, it represented the coming together of a tremendous set of very robust reform proposals proposed over many, many years,” Rep. Sarbanes said in a video on his website. “We had to respond in a meaningful way to this undue influence that big money and corporations and other insiders have in Washington. So H.R. 1 is a direct product of what the American people have been telling us for years.” “Throughout the country’s history, the best way to defend democracy is to strengthen democracy. S. 1 [the Senate has introduced the bill as well] would be the most significant democracy reform in more than half a century,” stated Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, which helped develop its policies.... Other bill supporters include including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of over 200 national organizations. Its statement had over 50 directly undersigned organizations, including the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, the Sierra Club, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the League of Women Voters. The House has promised to pass H.R. 1 quickly, the expectation is it will leave committee and come to a floor vote and approval in March. It is a priority of Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), but will need 60 votes to pass, which may be difficult to secure.

February 22, 2021

ON BOARD: Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the Democracy Reform Task Force Chair, says all House Democrats are behind H.R. 1, the For the People Act, ahead of its expected House floor vote during the first week in March. The bill aims to protect and expand voting rights and clean up corruption, among other things. “House Democrats are united in our steadfast commitment to advance transformational anti-corruption and clean election reforms by swiftly passing H.R. 1,” Sarbanes said in a statement.

February 18, 2021

The League of Conservation Voters released its annual congressional scorecard Thursday, and the Maryland delegation lined up about as expected. Six House Democrats — Reps. Steny H. Hoyer, Kweisi Mfume, Jamie B. Raskin, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John P. Sarbanes and David J. Trone — received perfect 100% scores. Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D) got 95% on the scorecard, and the state’s two senators, Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both Democrats, scored 92% grades. The lone Republican in Maryland’s congressional delegation, Rep. Andrew P. Harris, got a zero.

February 18, 2021

The White House on Wednesday indicated that President Biden would support studying reparations for slavery, the same day that U.S. House Democrats held a hearing on legislation that would set up a reparations commission. But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stopped short of saying Biden would sign the bill under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee.... The bill’s commission would study how the U.S. government can craft reparations to address disparities in wealth, education, health, housing and mass incarceration, among others. No Republicans have signed on to H.R. 40, but more than 160 Democrats have — including Maryland Democratic Reps. Anthony G. Brown, Kweisi Mfume, Jamie B. Raskin, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John P. Sarbanes and David J. Trone.

February 17, 2021

President Biden could help reverse the harm done by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — and hasten his exit — by filling the vacant seats on the U.S. Postal Service’s Board of Governors, members of Congress said in a letter this week. The letter, sent to Biden on Tuesday, was signed by 80 members of the U.S. House, including Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger and John P. Sarbanes (both D-Md.). Their letter comes as Americans endure a spike in delayed mail…. In their letter, the lawmakers label DeJoy a “Republican Party mega-donor… who had no experience working for the Postal Service prior to his appointment.” They said his actions have “rapidly transformed the Postal Service to the detriment of Americans....” Filling the vacancies could pave the way for DeJoy’s ouster, the lawmakers suggest. “There is a plethora of evidence that Postmaster General DeJoy is not equipped to meet the rigors of these challenges,” they told the president.

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