The House's "For the People Act" Proves Democrats Are Delivering On Our Midterm Promises
Elections have consequences. Last September, I delivered a speech outlining House Democrats’ plans to make government work for the people again by making our institutions more ethical, transparent and accountable. Democrats won the House, in part, on that pledge, and on the very first day of our new majority Democrats began implementing reforms to House rules to honor it. Today, we take the next major step in the process when we bring to the House floor landmark legislation that we think will renew Americans’ faith in government.
Our legislation, the For the People Act, numbered H.R. 1 and introduced by Maryland’s Rep. John Sarbanes, will restore public trust in Congress and the federal government in several critical ways. From redistricting reforms to campaign finance reforms, from strengthening Americans’ access to the ballot box, to higher ethical standards for our nation’s leaders, the For the People Act will protect our democracy and put power back in the hands of the American people.
First, H.R. 1 protects the integrity of our elections by strengthening voting rights protections. These include automatic voter registration, an expansion of early voting and ending the process of partisan redistricting nationwide. I have always said that real redistricting reform must be national to be effective; H.R. 1 achieves this goal. The act would also restore the vote to formerly incarcerated people who have paid their debts to society and deserve to have their voices heard in our democracy once again.
Next, our legislation seeks to reduce the corrupting influence of dark money in our elections by requiring the disclosure of all Super PAC donors. After the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United v. FEC ruling in 2010, vast sums of undisclosed money flooded our politics, crowding out the voices of individual voters and communities. Democrats are determined to put an end to this practice, as well as place reasonable limits on campaign contributions and ensure complete transparency.
Additionally, our legislation imposes new, higher standards of ethics for those running for the highest offices in our land. Under H.R. 1, presidents and vice presidents would be required to disclose their tax returns for the past 10 years. This would include President Donald Trump, who has still refused to release his tax forms notwithstanding the fact that nearly every president since Ronald Reagan has done so, as well as Vice President Mike Pence. Further, presidential inaugural committees would need to reveal their expenditures in order to ensure no one improperly influences an administration. Accountability begins at the top.
Democrats are united in our effort to root out corruption and pass laws that make sure our government acts in the best interests of the American people — not entrenched special interests. While H.R. 1 is a major step forward in achieving both of these goals, it is not the first step. In January, Democrats instituted reforms to House rules that will increase transparency, strengthen ethics standards, promote bipartisanship and encourage diversity among members and staff. Democrats ran on a platform of opening up government and making it a tool for justice, opportunity and economic security. Now in office, we are working hard to deliver results.
As we move H.R. 1 to the House Floor, I am confident it will pass. Once that occurs, however, all eyes will be on the Senate. I hope that senators, Republicans and Democrats, will give this legislation the consideration it deserves.
The House is trying to look past partisanship and politics and embrace major reforms that benefit not one party but our country and our democratic system. Together, we want to renew Americans’ faith that our democracy is indeed a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” and can be a force for progress that benefits all of our people and helps them get ahead.