The Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives passed HR 1, “For the People Act” as the first piece of legislation of the 116th Congress. HR 1 is a comprehensive anti-corruption and pro-democracy reform bill. It is dedicated to the public good, the public interest, and the people’s interest.
There are three key components of this legislation, reforming our political and campaign finance system, increasing ethics requirements for candidates, elected officials, and entities, and increasing the citizen’s right to vote.
Under this legislation campaign finance reform would include social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter being required to disclose the source of money for political ads on their platforms and the amount of money they received for running those ads.
HR 1 would establish voluntary public financing of campaigns. Small donations of up to $200. could be matched by up to 6 to 1. There would be zero dollars of taxpayer money used to fund this financing. The source of funding would is provided adding a 2.7 percent fee on criminal and civil fines, fees, penalties, or settlements with banks and corporations that commit corporate malfeasance.
Super PACs and “dark money” political organizations would be required to make donors public.
In the area of ethics reform HR 1 would require that the President and Vice President of the United States release and provide to the American public the last ten years of tax returns. This would also apply to candidates for President and Vice President.
Members of the US House of Representatives would no longer be allowed to serve on corporate boards.
Members of the US House would be barred from using taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment or discrimination cases.
Under the Voting Rights section of HR 1 new voter registration would be automatic, with opt out rather than opt in provisions. This would ensure more citizens would be registered to vote. Two week early voting for federal elections in all fifty states, same day voter registration, and online voter registration. Colleges and Universities could become voter registration agencies like the DMV.
Election Day would be a national holiday.
Shoring up election security, requiring that the Director of National Intelligence do regular checks on foreign threats.
End partisan gerrymandering in federal elections.
Prohibit voter roll purging by stopping the use of non-forwardable mail as a way to remove voters from the polls.
There are many other provisions of this bill that make it a critical piece of anti-corruption and pro-democracy legislation.
HR 1 passed the US House without a single Republican vote. Sadly, the Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said it will not be taken up for a vote in the United States Senate. When asked why, his reply was “Because I get to decide.”
Just think about that for a moment. The US Senate will not be allowed to debate and vote on comprehensive anti-corruption and pro-democracy passed in the US House because the Republican leader has decided to refuse such a debate and vote to take place.
Because of the Republican leader of the US Senate members of the US Senate are being denied the opportunity to debate and pass a piece of legislation that is in the people’s interest.
There will be no compromise legislation, no legislation worked out through a joint committee of Congress that both Democratic and Republican lawmakers can agree on, no legislation addressing the issues at hand because the Republican leader has decided no.
In McConnell’s case it is not surprising given the fact that he lead the fight to undo the McCain Feingold Campaign Finance law and was overjoyed with the Citizens United decision of the United States Supreme Court.
Senator McConnell is delighted to keep political money secret, ethics laws lax, and access of citizens to the voting booth highly restricted. Apparently his Republican colleagues in the US House unanimously agree with him.
McConnell and his fellow Republican leaders have called HR 1 a “power grab”. On that they are correct. It is a power grab by the people to return ethics and access to government and our election process. It is a power grab to allow citizens access to our Constitutional right to vote and participate in the election process and our government. It is a power grab by the people to demand and require that public officials and candidates fully disclose their taxes and serve the people’s interest.
The Democratic Party, Democratic elected officials, Democratic candidates, and Democratic activists are dedicated to opening up the process of government, ensuring access for all citizens to the ballot, and providing transparent and meaningful ethics reform on the federal level.
Republican leaders have clearly said they are opposed.