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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Richard Neal and other Democratic leaders unveil reforms to curb presidential abuses

September 23, 2020
In The News

Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives on Wednesday introduced an expansive reform package to curb presidential abuses and enhance Congress’s ability to provide oversight and maintain the rule of law, which they argue President Donald Trump has repeatedly ignored while in office.

In a news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, flanked by the chairs of several committees including Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts and Intelligence Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said the Protecting Our Democracy Act would blunt Trump’s “staggering litany of abuses and ensure they can never happen again by anyone.”

“The Congress has a sacred obligation for the people to defend the rule of law and restore accountability and basic ethics to our government,” she added.

The bill would increase transparency around presidential pardoning powers; block the solicitation of foreign interference in elections by classifying information such as opposition research as a prohibited donation to a campaign; secure the work of inspectors general by barring their firing over political retaliation; increase protections for whistleblowers; and strengthen congressional subpoena powers.

The lawmakers accused Trump of rewarding friends and cronies with pardons; of coercing foreign leaders to help him win re-election; and of ousting inspectors general at the departments of State, Transportation, Defense and others when Trump allies or policies were under investigation.

Congressional subpoenas, Neal told reporters, are “not requests that recipients can easily brush aside.”

“The rule of law applies to every single person in this country including the president and every member of the administration,” Neal said.

The legislation would also add teeth to the Hatch Act, which Trump administration officials have violated several times by using their official office to campaign while on duty and through the posting of re-election campaign slogans on taxpayer-backed government social media accounts in defiance of warnings from federal investigators.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said Trump officials have openly mocked and flouted the Hatch Act without any accountability from the president. The Democrats' bill would authorize the Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the Hatch Act, to fine senior political appointees who violate the law up to $50,000, Maloney said.

Schiff told reporters that lawmakers do not expect the bill to pass in a Republican Senate led by Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. But he said the provisions in the bill will find bipartisan support if former Vice President Joe Biden wins the White House.