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Local Editorials

OUR VIEW: First step in rebranding the Democratic Party

Sweeping ethics and elections bill probably won’t even be brought up for a vote in Senate, but it could go a long way in shaping the 2020 election cycle

The Democrats’ sweeping legislation targeting corruption in Washington and removing barriers to the ballot box passed the U.S. House of Representatives on March 8.

What’s interesting about H.R. 1, known as the For the People Act, is that it has no real chance of passing the Senate, yet it is likely to remain at the forefront of American politics until some form of the 700-page bill does become law.

The bill is part campaign finance reform. It would require dark-money political organizations to disclose the origin of large donations – more than $10,000 – in an effort to reduce the role of big money in determining elections.

It would attack what Democrats, including one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Cheri Bustos of East Moline, refer to as the culture of corruption in the nation’s capital. Lawmakers would be banned from serving on corporate boards and required to turn over personal tax information.

For Democrats, there was a sense of urgency to this bill – H.R. 1 was the first piece of legislation introduced in the new session of Congress. Getting the bill through the House was one of three goals the party had set for this session. For Democrats, who want to rebrand themselves as the party of ethics reform, it also is the most important, Bustos said.

“When I’m out talking to people in our district at events like Supermarket Saturdays, the number one issue that’s been brought up for a long time is cleaning up the mess that is corruption in Washington,” Bustos said.

The bill also takes aim at the fundamentals of the electoral process. In an attempt to ensure fair elections, there would be changes to make it easier to register and vote. Highlights are automatic voter registration, restoring voting rights to people with a felony on their record, and providing more poll workers. Perhaps most important, it would take partisan redistricting out of the hands of the politicians who benefit by diluting the power of voters.

The other two most pressing priorities for Democrats in this session are passing an infrastructure bill and improving access to affordable health care, which includes lowering prescription drug prices.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has vowed that the bill won’t be brought to the Senate floor for a vote. One thing both parties agree on is that H.R. 1 is a power grab. While Democrats call it a power grab for the people, the GOP calls it a ploy to keep Democrats in power.

While H.R. 1 won’t pass the Senate any time soon, Democrats believe it sets the table for passage if and when Democrats gain control of the Senate and White House. In the meantime, you’ll be hearing plenty about the For the People Act. It makes good on the Democrats’ promise to clean up Washington – a vow that helped the party regain a majority in the House. It is the centerpiece of the party’s congressional agenda. It also is likely to become the basic framework of the party’s platform in the 2020 election cycle.

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