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Forty Seven Senate Democrats Introduce ‘For the People’ Act To Put Power Back In Hands Of American People

on March 27, 2019 - 3:36pm

U.S. SENATE News:

Entire Senate Democratic caucus co-sponsors companion legislation to H.R. 1

Udall & Merkley’s landmark bill would help repair our broken politics, restore the promise of American democracy, and make government work for the people

Sweeping package of pro-democracy and anti-corruption reforms makes it easier — not harder — to vote, ends the dominance of big money in politics, and ensures public officials work for the public interest

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) today joined by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, led all 47 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus in introducing the For the People Act, a sweeping package of comprehensive reforms that would end special interest corruption of our politics and make government work for the people. The landmark legislation, companion legislation to H.R. 1 in the U.S. House of Representatives, aims to restore the promise of American democracy by making it easier, not harder, to vote; ending the dominance of big money in politics; and ensuring that public officials work for the public interest. Earlier this month, the House passed H.R. 1 by a vote of 234-193. 

The full text of the legislation is available HERE. A one-page summary of the bill is available HERE. A longer summary of the bill is available HERE.  A section-by-section summary of the legislation is available HERE. A list of organizations supporting the legislation is available HERE.  

"American democracy has reached a crisis point,” Udall said. “Too many Americans have every reason to believe that their government no longer answers to them – and most people are either losing faith in the system or have already lost it completely. Voting rights are under assault, foreign adversaries interfere in our elections, special interest money drowns out the voices of regular people, and so-called public servants use their offices to help themselves and their friends – instead of the people they are supposed to work for. Enough is enough. We must unrig the system and take back our democracy -- to return it to the hands of its rightful owners, the American people. This landmark package of transformational reforms will bring transparency and accountability back to our government by strengthening access to the ballot box, shining sunlight on dark money in politics, and rooting out the culture of corruption in Washington. This shouldn’t be about Democrats versus Republicans. This is about the people versus the special interests. The American people are demanding reform – and they will be heard.”   

“The founding ‘We The People’ vision of our constitution has been corrupted by gerrymandering, dark money, and voter suppression. We now have government by and for the powerful, not by and for the people,” Merkley said. “Today we stand up to end the corruption.  If we fail, we will fail on healthcare, housing, education, and good-paying jobs. If we fail, we will fail to address climate chaos. We must not fail.”

“For far too long, those trying to disenfranchise voters, especially voters from communities of color, young voters, and the poor, have systematically and successfully put in place bureaucratic hurdles in order to limit participation at the ballot box. At the same time, loose campaign finance and ethics rules have given power and a voice to powerful special interests at the expense of the American people. That’s not right, and the American people know it’s not right – so we Democrats are taking action. Senators Udall and Merkley’s ‘For The People Act’ will help shine light on the dark money and nefarious practices that corrode our democracy and are used to give the wealthiest few outsized influence in our elections and deny Americans citizens the constitutional right to vote,” Schumer said.

The legislation is co-sponsored by every member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, including: U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Angus King (I-Maine), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

The legislation was unveiled at a press event today. Joining Udall, Merkley, and Schumer at the press event were U.S. Senators Richard Durbin, Amy Klobuchar, Sheldon Whitehouse, Chris Van Hollen, and Michael Bennet.

“This comprehensive democracy reform plan includes my Fair Elections Now Act—a bill that I have introduced in every Congress since 2007.  The Fair Elections Now Act would create a voluntary, small-donor public financing system for Senate candidates who agree to raise only small-dollar contributions,” Durbin said. “If we don’t want a Congress filled just with multimillionaires and billionaires—or people who are beholden to them—we need to make it possible for more people to run and win.  I’m thankful to my colleagues, Senators Udall and Merkley, for working with me to include the Fair Elections Now Act in this important legislative package.”

“At a time when the right to vote is under attack, when foreign adversaries are trying to exploit our divisions and hack our elections, when an unprecedented amount of money from special interests is drowning out the voices of the American people, we need to take bold action to restore Americans’ confidence in our political system. And that’s exactly what the For the People Act does,” Klobuchar said. “My priority since taking over as Ranking Member of the Rules Committee – the Committee with jurisdiction over federal elections – has been to make voting easier and more secure. I am proud to have nearly a dozen legislative provisions included in the legislation that help achieve those goals. Americans want a democracy that works for them—and this bill helps achieve that goal. I’m proud to be leading this important legislation with my colleagues and introducing it today.”

“96 percent of Americans think the problem with our politics is that there is too much money in it. Unfortunately, none of those people are on the Supreme Court of the United States.  The corruption of inaction—where special interests block action on issues like climate change and gun reform—is destroying people’s faith in democracy and imperiling our exercise in self-government. That’s why the For the People Act is so important. It shows people we hear them, and that we are responding with commonsense reforms—from voting access to campaign finance to a ban on partisan gerrymandering,” Bennet said.

“Our democracy is being threatened by attempts to undermine the right of citizens to vote and the influence of dark money on our elections. Congress must do more to empower Americans to participate in the political process. The For the People Act would stop attempts to disenfranchise Americans, strengthen voting rights for people of color and other vulnerable groups, and reduce the influence of dark money in politics. I’m proud to join Senator Udall and the entire Senate Democratic Caucus in introducing legislation to protect our democracy and restore Americans’ faith in our institutions of government,” Cortez Masto said.  

“I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce landmark legislation to protect the power of the American people in our democracy,” Kaine said. “This bill is about ensuring Americans can exercise their right to vote, securing our elections, and bringing more transparency to money in politics.”

“Our nation belongs to the people – not just the wealthy or the powerful people – but all the people,” Warner said. “I’m proud this legislation includes the Honest Ads Act, a bill I introduced to bring overdue transparency and accountability to online political ads. By facilitating access to the ballot box, addressing the influence of money in politics, and ensuring that lawmakers can be held accountable by those they serve, this bold legislation will strengthen democracy and put power back in the hands of everyday Americans.”

“At a time when Americans’ faith in government is at an all-time low, I’m proud to join Senator Udall and our Democratic colleagues to introduce legislation in the Senate that helps to restore trust and return power to the people,” Carper said. “The American people deserve fairer elections. That’s why this bill restores the Voting Rights Act to better ensure that more Americans have access to the ballot box. The majority of Americans want to reduce the role of big money in politics. That’s why this bill works to get dark money out of our political system to ensure that those who represent the people are working in their best interest. Americans of all political affiliations want more transparency when it comes to those seeking office – not less. That’s why I’m proud that this landmark legislation includes my bill with Senator Warren and Chairman Cummings that would require all presidential candidates and their transition teams to disclose how they will address conflicts of interest before they take the oath of office. This bill includes common sense, good government policies that are vital for a healthy democracy, and it deserves bipartisan support here in the Senate.”

“This much-needed comprehensive legislation includes a provision I authored that would give our nation’s top ethics watchdog real teeth. Enforcing basic accountability for the kind egregious ethics violations we’ve become accustomed to during the Trump Administration is fundamental to restoring the American people’s trust in their government. The fish rots from the head: the President himself continues to hold an ownership stake in the Trump Organization even as he makes decisions that could impact its bottom line. Meanwhile, Cabinet secretaries hold financial stakes in the industries they ‘regulate’ and years after being confirmed, still haven’t sold assets they agreed to divest from when nominated. This legislation will help ensure that our nation’s leaders and public servants are serving the American people, not their own self-interest,” Blumenthal said.

“Voting is a fundamental right of citizenship,” Cardin said. “I am proud to join with Senator Udall to co-sponsor the For the People Act, which would eliminate the patchwork of voter rights across the country. Among many important measures, this bill includes my Democracy Restoration Act (DRA), which would strengthen American communities by restoring voting rights to individuals when they have returned home after being released from incarceration. The United States is one of the few Western democracies that allows the permanent denial of voting rights for individuals with felony convictions, and it’s simply wrong that state disenfranchisement laws deny citizens participation in our democracy. This bill would also crack down on the use of deceptive practices and voter intimidation efforts that are deliberately designed to suppress minorities’ voting rights.”

“Our democracy is built on the principle that the American people have the power in our elections,” Smith said. “We need to defend vigorously the right of every eligible citizen to exercise their constitutional right to vote, and end the flood of unchecked, unlimited, and secret money into our elections. This bill sets out to do just that.”

“From skyrocketing prescription drug prices to Congress’s inaction on climate change and gun violence, nearly every intractable problem in Washington can be traced back to greed and corruption. If we want to end the dysfunction in Washington and get to work actually solving people’s problems, then we have to root out corruption in government,” Gillibrand said. “I’m proud to cosponsor the For The People Act, which would finally put our democracy back in the hands of the people. This urgently needed legislation would protect Americans’ sacred right to vote, it would tackle corruption in our government, and it would help end the reign of big money in our politics. I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill to protect and strengthen our democracy.”

The full text of the legislation is available HERE. A one-page summary of the bill is available HERE. A longer summary of the bill is available HERE. A section-by-section summary of the legislation is available HERE. A list of organizations supporting the legislation is available HERE.  

The For the People Act would:

Make It Easier, Not Harder, To Vote

  • Improve Access and Secure Voting Rights – Expands access to the ballot box by taking aim at institutional barriers to voting, such as cumbersome registration systems, limited voting hours and many other roadblocks. The bill creates automatic voter registration across the country, ensures that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full rights restored, expands voting by mail, promotes early voting and online voter registration, and modernizes the U.S. voting system.
  • Promote Integrity – Fights back against the assault on voting rights by reaffirming Congress’s commitment to restoring the Voting Rights Act, prohibiting voter roll purges like those seen in Ohio, Georgia and elsewhere, and ensuring that discriminatory voter ID laws do not prevent Americans citizens from exercising their rights. This bill would also end partisan gerrymandering to prevent politicians from picking their voters and making Americans feel like their voices do not count.
  • Bolster Election Security – Ensures that American elections are decided by American voters without interference by foreign adversaries. The bill creates a national strategy to protect our democratic institutions, increases oversight over election vendors, and enhances federal support for state voting system security upgrades, including paper ballot voting systems.  

End The Dominance of Big Money In Politics

  • Guarantee Disclosure – Shines a light on dark money in politics by requiring all political organizations to disclose their donors, which will break the nesting-doll system that allows big-money contributors and special interests to hide their spending in networks of so-called “social welfare” organizations; expands “Stand By Your Ad” provisions; and harmonizes internet disclosure rules with existing broadcast rules.
  • Empower Citizens – Builds a 21st-century campaign finance system to increase the power of small donors, reaffirms Congress’s authority to regulate money in politics, and pushes back against Citizens United. This bill levels the political playing field for everyday Americans, creating a multiple matching system for small donations and allowing the American people to exercise their due influence in a post-Citizens United world, while reaffirming that Congress should have the authority to regulate money in politics. The new system of citizen-owned elections will break special interests’ stranglehold on Congress and the White House and lay the groundwork for an agenda that serves the American people.
  • Strengthen Oversight – Repairs and restructures the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to break gridlock and enhance enforcement mechanisms, tightens rules on super PACs, and repeals policy riders that block sensible disclosure measures.  

Ensure Public Officials Work For The Public Interest

  • Fortify Ethics Laws and Slow the Revolving Door – Breaks the influence of special interests in Washington and increases accountability by expanding conflict of interest law and divestment requirements, slows the revolving door, prohibits members of Congress from serving on for-profit corporate boards, limits first class travel for government officials, ends taxpayer-financed settlements for officeholders, and requires presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.
  • Impose Greater Ethics Enforcement – Gives teeth to federal ethics oversight by overhauling the Office of Government Ethics,requires the Supreme Court to create a new ethical code, and closes registration loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents.

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