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'For the People Act' introduced by House Democrats

Posted: 9:51 AM, Jan 04, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-04 12:16:22-05

Democrats unveiled their first piece of legislation Friday, a collection of voting rights provisions, ethics reforms and a requirement that presidential candidates release 10 years of tax returns , an action aimed at President Donald Trump, who has defied decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns to the public.

The bill, which will become the first priority of many of the House's most high-profile committees, is expected to move swiftly through the House of Representatives, but won't pass in the Republican-controlled Senate or be signed by the President.

Known as HR 1 or what Democrats are calling the For the People Act, the bill would make sweeping changes to the country's federal voting system and promote automatic voter registration, internet registration and early voting, as well as prohibit states from restricting a voter's ability to cast mail-in ballots. The legislation would also seek to bolster election security by imposing changes like requiring voting systems to be tested at least nine months before any federal election.

The legislation makes broad campaign finance reforms like barring contributions from businesses that have significant foreign influence and "requires super PACs, 501(c)(4) groups and other organizations spending money in elections to disclose donors who contribute more than $10,000." It also imposes ethics rules on Congress and the executive branch.

Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland told reporters that the bill was intended to "set the table" on what Democratic priorities in the new Congress look like even if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won't take them up in the Senate.

"You could stamp on this thing 'McConnell rejected,' and it would immediately give it more credibility because everything that he has done over the last few years to undermine democracy are the things that we are trying to respond to here," Sarbanes said.

Democrats formally introduced the bill Thursday, but didn't unveil the contents of it until Friday. The legislation will now undergo a series of hearings in Democratic-controlled committees, including Oversight and Ways and Means. Exact timings for those hearings are still up in the air given the government shutdown that has paralyzed Washington.