Sarbanes, House Democrats Introduce Once-In-A-Generation Package of Democracy Reforms
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Democracy Reform Task Force Chair Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) today led the new House Democratic majority in unveiling H.R. 1, the For the People Act, a sweeping package of reforms that will drastically alter the balance of power in Washington and make government work for the people.
With H.R. 1 – the most transformational and comprehensive suite of democracy reforms ever proposed – Democrats are following through on a major midterm election promise to clean up the chaos and corruption Washington.
“Last year, the American people elected a new Democratic House majority with a mandate to end the culture of corruption in Washington and return to a government of, by and for the people,” said Congressman Sarbanes, the lead author of H.R. 1. “The bold, transformative set of reforms that we introduced today will strengthen our democracy and return political power to the people by making it easier, not harder, to vote, ending the dominance of big money in our politics and ensuring that public officials actually serve the public.”
H.R. 1 makes critical reforms across three key areas:
- Improve Access – H.R. 1 expands access to the ballot box by taking aim at institutional barriers to voting, such as cumbersome registration systems, limited voting hours and many other roadblocks. H.R. 1 creates automatic voter registration across the country, ensures that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full rights restored, expands voting by mail and early voting and modernizes the U.S. voting system.
- Promote Integrity – H.R. 1 fights back against Republicans’ assault on voting rights by committing Congress to build the record necessary to restore the Voting Rights Act, prohibiting voter roll purges like those seen in Ohio, Georgia and elsewhere and ensuring that discriminatory voter ID laws do not prevent Americans citizens from exercising their rights. H.R. 1 also ends partisan gerrymandering to prevent politicians from picking their voters and making Americans feel like their voices do not count.
- Ensure Security – H.R. 1 ensures that American elections are decided by American voters without interference by foreign adversaries. The bill enhances federal support for voting system security, particularly paper ballots, and increases oversight over election vendors.
- Guarantee Disclosure – H.R. 1 shines a light on dark money in politics by requiring any organization involved in political activity to disclose its large donors, which will break the nesting-doll system that allows big-money contributors and special interests to hide their spending in networks of so-called “social welfare” organizations.
- Empower Citizens – H.R. 1 levels the political playing field for everyday Americans, creating a multiple matching system for small donations and allowing the American people to exercise their due influence in a post-Citizens United world, while reaffirming that Congress should have the authority to regulate money in politics. The new system of citizen-owned elections will break special interests’ stranglehold on Congress and lay the groundwork for an agenda that serves the American people.
- Strengthen Oversight – H.R. 1 ensures that there are cops on the campaign finance beat that will enforce the laws already on the books. H.R. 1 tightens rules on super PACs and restructures the Federal Election Commission to break the gridlock and enhance its enforcement mechanisms. It also repeals Mitch McConnell’s riders that prevent government agencies from requiring commonsense disclosure of political spending.
Ethics and Accountability
- Fortify Ethics Law – H.R. 1 breaks the influence economy in Washington and increases accountability by expanding conflict of interest law and divestment requirements, slowing the revolving door, preventing Members of Congress from serving on corporate boards and requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.
- Impose Greater Ethics Enforcement – H.R. 1 gives teeth to federal ethics oversight by overhauling the Office of Government Ethics, closing registration loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents, ensuring watchdogs have sufficient resources to enforce the law and creating a code of ethics for the Supreme Court.
For a section-by-section of H.R. 1 see here.
For H.R. 1 bill text, see here.