House Dems Prepare Broad Anti-Corruption Bill
About a month ago, I wrote about the importance of the House Democratic legislative agenda as a tool for setting the groundwork for the 2020 election more so than any real legislative accomplishments that would be unlikely to be crafted with a Republican Senate and Trump and/or Pence in the White House. It appears that Speaker-to-be Pelosi is going to come right out of the gate in January with a bill that hits on three key Democratic policies and puts Senate Republicans on the defensive.
According to Vox, HR-1 will be a broad anti-corruption bill that focuses on campaign finance reform, voting rights, and ethics in government. While this bill clearly won’t make it out of the Senate, and probably not even to the Senate floor, it should put Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans in the uncomfortable position of having to defend their actions. The bill ends the Congressional practice of using taxpayer money to pay to resolve sexual harassment suits, further empowers the Office of Government Ethics to do more oversight and enforcement, especially regarding the registration of lobbyists, and creates a new code of ethics for the Supreme Court. But the most difficult part of the bill for Republicans is the requirement that the President disclose his or her, if we have a woman assume the office, taxes. This puts Trump directly in the crosshairs and directly pressures Senate Republicans.
The second part of the package focuses on voting rights. Most importantly, it restores those sections of the Voting Rights Act that were gutted by the Supreme Court in Shelby v. Holder. The bill would end the practice of voter purges as well as partisan gerrymandering in federal elections. It would set up a system of default automatic voter registration that would require a voter to specifically opt out and encourage online voter registration and expanded early voting.
HR-1 increases public funding of federal campaigns that receive small donor contributions, setting up a 6-to-1 match for every small donor dollar. More importantly, it requires the disclosure of the donors to Super PACs and other “dark money” organizations, as well as requiring Facebook and Twitter to disclose the source and amount of money spent on political ads on their platforms.
Some of the details are still being hashed out on this bill but the intention is to bring it to the floor as soon as the new Congress is sworn in in January. What’s more important is that the bill illustrates that the Democratic caucus understands what it’s role will be over the next two years. Thankfully, there is no talk of leading off with something like an infrastructure package to “show Democrats can govern”. Instead, the idea is to focus on passing Democratic priorities and highlighting those issues.
The next two years will probably be dominated by the exposure of the rampant corruption inside the Trump administration and perhaps even impeachment. But, on the legislative front, while there will be little if any progress, there will be a remarkable battle to position their party for 2020 between two legislative leaders who have shown that they excel in their craft. McConnell may be the most destructive force for American democracy in a century and a half, but he has proven to be a formidable adversary in his role as Majority Leader. Pelosi, too, has shown her abilities over the years, preventing Democrats from caving on Social Security privatization and getting Obamacare passed. The ease with which she has seemingly dispatched the anti-Pelosi brigade in her caucus and the emerging details of HR-1 shows that she too can still play hardball.