Democratic power politics: First priorities include ending shutdown, passing reform package

January 4, 2019

With a standing ovation and her grandchildren by her side, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-California) returned to power as Speaker of the House on January 3.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the veteran politician is expected to immediately address two pressing legislative priorities now that she once again holds the gavel—ending an extended partial government shutdown; and passing a government-overhaul package that would tighten campaign-finance rules and government-ethics laws while expanding voting rights.

The newly Democratic House is ready to deliver with a bill co-authored by Pelosi and Representative John Sarbanes (D-Maryland)House Resolution 1—which the two said in a November op-ed would include “a bold reform package,” the Daily Kos reported.

In their own words, as posted by the Daily Kos, the bill has three priorities:

  1. First, let’s end the dominance of money in politics. So let’s rein in the unaccountable “dark money” unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United Federal Election Commission decision [in 2010] by requiring all political organizations to disclose their donors and by shutting down the shell game of big-money donations to super PACs.
  2. Next, let’s make sure that when public servants get to Washington, they serve the public.To do so, we will expand conflict-of-interest laws, ban members of Congress from serving on for-profit boards, revamp the oversight authority of the Office of Government Ethics; and prohibit public servants from receiving bonus payments from their former employers to enter government.
  3. Finally, let’s make it easier, not harder, to vote.We must renew the Voting Rights Act to protect every citizen’s access to the ballot box and restore the vital safeguard of pre-clearance requirements for areas with a history of voter suppression. We will promote national automatic voter registration, bolster our critical election infrastructure against foreign attackers, and put an end to partisan gerrymandering once and for all by establishing federal guidelines to outlaw the practice.

According to the Journal, House Republicans are almost certain to oppose most, if not all, of the legislation.

“I haven’t been a supporter of taxpayer funding to run political campaigns. I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Representative Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), the Minority Whip, told the news outlet on January 2, when asked about the Democratic plan to be unveiled at the end of the week.

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Kentucky) has said he won’t bring it to the Senate floor for a vote, and his spokesperson said that McConnell plans to expand on his opposition to the Democratic package “early and often in the new Congress.”

Still, some Republicans have also called for greater transparency in campaign-finance law—and to scale back the influence of such outside groups as super PACs, political-action committees that can raise and spend unlimited sums of cash, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Indeed, Representative Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina) and Senator Ted Cruz (R.- Texas) introduced a bill last month–the SuperPAC Elimination Act that they said aimed to “[protect] free speech in elections by allowing unlimited individual contributions to candidates with immediate disclosure, effectively eliminating SuperPACs.” Their bill would require donations of more than $200 to be disclosed within 24 hours.

Generally speaking, campaign-finance reform, that I do support,” Meadows said in an interview with the Journal on January 2. But, he added: “Typically, when someone puts forth an initiative, it’s all about gaining partisan advantage.”

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