Taking Back Democracy
Published January 10, 2019 / Updated September 1, 2020

Taking Back Democracy

HR 1 declares an anti-corruption agenda

by Chris Thomas

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Photo by Kev Seto on Unsplash

As always, we’ll start this out with a dose of honesty. House Resolution 1 (HR 1) is not going to get a vote in the Senate. Even if it does, there’s no way President Trump signs it into law. The bill is symbolic but, like all of those votes to repeal Obamacare before 2017, symbolic votes have a way of driving a very real agenda forward.

HR 1 is the centerpiece of the House Democratic Majority’s vision for American politics and it’s an appealing one. It has the honorific of being HR 1 to suggest that it is the cornerstone of the House agenda for the next two years. Here are the high-points of the bill:

1. Campaign Finance Reform

The biggest part of this is a government matching program which seeks to amplify the power of small donations. Every dollar donated (up to $200) would come with six dollars of federal matching funds.

Other initiatives include tougher disclosure laws for Super PACs, government contractors, and social media platforms; a tie breaking vote on the Federal Election Commission; and a further restriction of how candidates and Super PACs can coordinate.

Finally, the bill includes some entirely symbolic language supporting a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.

2. Ethics

There are two major shots across the Republican bow here. First, HR 1 adds a formal requirement that the President and Vice President (and candidates for those offices in the future) disclose their tax returns. Second, the bill would impose a new ethical code on the US Supreme Court. Justice Kavanaugh’s 80-some ethics complaints were dropped shortly after his confirmation to the Supreme Court as no formal system exists in which to file them.

In a much-needed nod to the #MeToo movement, HR 1 would also prevent Congress from using taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims.

3. Voting Rights

Democrats are well aware that higher turnout favors them at the polls and that being against people voting looks really sketchy in a modern democracy. HR 1 is therefore loaded with popular electoral reforms which are very hard to oppose like: making election day a holiday; automatic, opt-out voter registration; early voting; same day registration; election security; and better poll worker training.

Perhaps most critically, HR 1 takes a stand against partisan gerrymandering and prohibits voter purges in federal elections.

Tell Congress What You Think

If Democrats care about this they have to push hard, knowing full well that the bill won’t pass. They won’t push unless you tell them to. You can write to Congress about this or any other topic by sending the word Resist to Resistbot on Facebook Messenger, Telegram, or as a Twitter direct message. If none of those work for you, Resistbot also supports old fashioned SMS: text RESIST to 50409 to get started. It takes 2 minutes to do something great.

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