While reopening the government has received the most media attention, Democrats have spent months writing a comprehensive reform bill. HR-1, the first bill to be introduced today by congressional Democrats, is designed to ignite their progressive agenda for 2019.
This bill is a comprehensive combination of key issues that Democrats have identified as fundamental to their very identity. Specifically, it will leverage the power of small campaign donors, push ethics reform, strengthen voter rights and shine a light on the sources of dark money. This represents a bold progressive reform agenda that Democrats have been demanding.
Perhaps just as significant, these reform measures have the potential to unite the party across a full spectrum of factions. This bill is authored by Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes. It is endorsed by the new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and has the essential support of a broad spectrum of Democrats. This bill firmly plants a progressive agenda flag uniting both traditional veteran Democrats with many progressives in the party.
Democrats are still recovering from the Clinton/Sanders split and this bill should speed that healing. There has been quite a bit written following the 2016 election suggesting there remains a split between the moderate and progressive elements in the party. This agreement on a comprehensive reform effort suggests the various constituencies are very closely aligned on key party goals.
These reform measures should also end the criticism that Democrats are simply resisting Trump but lack a clear agenda. Addressing the destructive influence of dark money in politics has become a fundamental issue uniting Democrats from both the left and right. With the serious ethical questions surrounding Trump and many of his cabinet appointees, Democrats are committed to restoring honesty and integrity to public service.
Congressman Sarbanes has a proven record of championing real democratic reforms. He has been a longtime advocate of public financing of elections, ethics reform and seven years ago stopped accepting PAC money. Sarbanes heads the party’s Democracy Reform Task Force. He previewed his bill as a crucial reform blueprint for Democrats.
“They (the public) want to end the culture of corruption in Trump’s Washington, hold elected officials accountable and make government more responsive to the people. On the first day of the new Congress, Democrats will introduce a bold and sweeping democracy reform package that will … ensure that public servants behave in Washington and make it easier, not harder, to vote,” Sarbanes said. “And it will be strongly backed by the new Democratic House majority — which is built on a diverse class of freshmen who are unified in their promise to restore our democracy — along with a new coalition of nearly 100 grassroots organizations that want to get this reform package over the finish line.”
The Democrats longer-term goal is to overturn the Citizens United decision that has opened the door to dark money in elections. HR-1 has gained the support of many Democratic allies advocating for reform.
“This bold, comprehensive set of reforms will make it easier to vote, end the dominance of big money in our politics, and ensure elected officials are working in the public interest,” said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United.
“That HR 1 will be a sweeping set of pro-democracy reforms is an encouraging sign that the new Congress has its priorities in line with the will of the people,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause.
With this bill Democrats are united in kicking off with a powerful agenda to restore democracy by pushing back on Trump and the Republicans obstructionist gridlock.
by Rick Smith
Photo via Gage Skidmore