House Democratic leaders on Friday unveiled the outline of a broad political overhaul bill that will include provisions for public financing of elections, voting rights reforms and new ethics strictures for federal officials.
The bill has been in the works for months as part of Democrats' “For the People” campaign platform, a framework that helped them win the House majority in this month’s midterm elections.
Numerous outside groups aligned with Democrats have pushed the party’s House leaders to schedule a reform bill as their first order of business, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced before the election that the bill would be designated “H.R. 1” — a symbolic title meant to emphasize its importance, even if it is unlikely to be the first piece of legislation to get a House vote in the new Congress.
“It’s folks from across the political spectrum that are demanding this,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the principal author of the plan, who stood alongside Pelosi and several members of the incoming freshman class at a news conference.
Elements of the legislation include new donor disclosure requirements for political organizations, a system to multiply small donations to political campaigns, a mandatory new ethical code for the Supreme Court, an end to most first-class travel for federal officeholders, and a broad effort to expand voting access and reduce partisan gerrymandering.
Pelosi and Sarbanes sketched out parts of the bill in a Washington Post op-ed last week.
Asked if she expects buy-in on the legislation from Republicans, including President Trump, Pelosi suggested they could be swayed by public pressure. “Our best friend in this debate is the public,” she said.
The effort was applauded Friday by the government watchdog Common Cause. “Congress is finally listening to the growing demands for reform from the American people,” the group’s president, Karen Hobert Flynn, said in a statement. “On Election Day, voters from coast-to coast sent a clear message that we are ready for bold, comprehensive democracy reforms.”
Elise Viebeck and John Wagner contributed to this report.