House Democrats Pass Electoral-Reform Package

Representative John Sarbanes (D., Md.) addresses a news conference with fellow Democrats to introduce proposed government reform legislation, For the People Act, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 4, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS)

The House passed a broad electoral-reform bill Friday, fulfilling a Democratic campaign promise from last year.

The For the People Act, or H.R. 1, which was sponsored by Representative John Sarbanes of Maryland, passed the House 234–193 in a party-line vote.

The bill is Democrats’ effort to combat corruption and dark money in elections and would overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court case, which lifted certain regulations on political spending by unions and corporations. It would also enable automatic voter registration, make Election Day a federal holiday, expand early voting, put independent commissions in charge of House redistricting, force “dark money” groups to disclose donors, and require presidential and vice presidential candidates to release ten years of tax returns to the public.

The bill will likely die in the Senate, where Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell has disparagingly called it the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.”

“They’re trying to clothe this power grab with cliches about ‘restoring democracy’ and doing it ‘For the People,’ but their proposal is simply a naked attempt to change the rules of American politics to benefit one party,” McConnell wrote in the Washington Post in January.

Representation Rodney Davis of Illinois, the ranking Republican on the House Administration Committee, which advanced the bill, complained that it was being rushed to a floor vote for “political reasons instead of good policy.”

“It is fundamental to our democracy that people believe — they believe — that actions taken here will be in their interest,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “That is what this legislation will help to restore.”

“It’s a power grab — a power grab on behalf of the people,” she said.

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