House Democrats on Friday unveiled the outline for their first legislative push in the new Congress – a bill that would aimed at substantial government reforms on everything from voter rights to campaign finance to ethics requirements in Washington to the documents presidential candidates must hand over when they win the nomination.
A Democratic aide told CNN that “the bill would require presidential nominees to release their returns from the three most recent taxable years.”
The bill – which Democrats are calling “H.R. 1” – isn’t expected to pass in a Republican-controlled Senate or be signed into law by President Donald Trump. But it nevertheless acts as a statement of priorities for House Democratic priorities and is what Democrats plan to make their first order of business in January when they take control of the House.
Longtime House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who is vying to reclaim the title of House speaker next year, said on Friday at a news conference on the legislative push that the new class of incoming House Democrats is focused on “integrity in government.”
Pelosi added that it “will be transformative to Congress when we reduce the role of money, amplify the voice of everyday Americans so that they know that their voices matter.”
During his campaign for office, then-candidate Trump broke with presidential election norms when he refused to produce his tax returns for public review, and he has repeatedly refused to requests to release them since he’s been in office. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told earlier this fall she is “not aware of any plans” for the President to release his tax returns.
Dean Phillips, an incoming Democratic lawmaker from Minnesota, said during the news conference that voters want House Democrats to “tackle the culture of corruption in Washington.”
“It’s time to elevate the common interest over special interests, time to return to a government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people. It’s as simple as that,” Phillips said.
A fact sheet on the legislation describes three main goals: improving voting access by making it easier to vote, pushing back on big money in politics through a variety of reforms and making sure that “public officials work for the public interest.”
To make it easier to vote, Democrats are promising to “end partisan gerrymandering, stop voter purging, and reaffirm Congress’ commitment to restore the Voting Rights Act,” the document states.
To take on big money in politics, Democrats aim to “require all political organizations to disclose their donors” and “tighten rules on Super PACs.”
To make public officials serve the public interest, the party says it will “expand conflict of interest law, require Presidential disclosure of tax returns, slow the revolving door, prohibit members of Congress from serving on for-profit boards, limit first class travel and end taxpayer financed settlements for officeholders.”
Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland described the legislative proposal on Friday as “a broad, comprehensive package of democracy reforms.”
The Maryland Democrat argued that the public needs to have confidence in the integrity of elections and their access to the ballot and that voters want officials in Washington to “act with ethics and integrity” and want lawmakers to “represent the American people,” not political insiders.
The effort to debut a legislative package even before the next Congress starts is an indication that House Democrats are already working to push a unified message to the American public about what they stand for, what they will do in power, and how they will deliver for voters.
During the news conference on Friday, Pelosi also addressed the fact that congressional oversight of the Trump administration is expected to take center stage as a key priority for House Democrats once the new Congress gavels in.
“Make no mistake, oversight is a congressional responsibility,” Pelosi said. “The administration may try to say oversight is investigation. No, oversight is our responsibility … we will honor our responsibilities.”