Top House Democrats on Tuesday announced the reintroduction of the “Protect Our Democracy Act,” a bill targeting what they see as the abuses of the Trump presidency with provisions limiting presidential power, strengthening congressional oversight and enforcement of ethics rules and cracking down on foreign interference.
The bill, introduced by House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff and five other committee chairs, is being promoted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, indicating it is a high priority for the Democratic House majority.
The bill would require increased transparency for certain presidential pardons, weaken the legal shield for presidents and vice presidents and create new protections for inspectors general and whistleblowers.
The bill would also bulk up Congress’ oversight powers, including limitations on the president’s ability to divert appropriations through emergency declarations and new tools allowing committees to compel testimony with subpoenas.
The bill also includes several ethics provisions codifying constitutional prohibitions on gifts to presidents and increasing the penalties and enforcement of the Hatch Act, which limits government officials’ ability to engage in partisan political activity.
The bill would require presidents and vice presidents, as well as presidential and vice presidential candidates, to provide 10 years of their tax returns to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), which would in turn be required to make them public.
Finally, the bill would require campaigns to report certain contacts with foreign entities and clarify prohibitions on foreign donations and assistance to campaigns, enhancing criminal penalties for violations.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, summed up the bill at a press conference, stating: “The executive must not be a king.”
The bill reads like a rap sheet of former President Donald Trump’s four years in the White House, which were plagued by allegations of corruption, solicitation of foreign interference, blatant ethics violations, misuse of congressional appropriations, abuse of presidential pardons and obstruction of congressional probes.
Schiff said at the press conference the Biden administration has engaged “constructively” with bill’s architects, who have made a “good faith effort” to accommodate their suggestions. He added, however, the White House takes an “Article Two perspective” – referring to the part of the Constitution granting executive power – and said they are “not in complete accordance.”
What To Watch For
While the bill may pass the Democrat-controlled House, it is likely to hit a brick wall when it reaches the Senate. While Democrats hold the upper chamber of Congress, the 60-vote threshold to overcome filibuster means 10 Republicans must vote to pass most Democratic bills – and Republicans often blast legislation they see as rebukes of Trump.
“Now I realize that Republican members live in fear of angry statements from the past president,” Schiff said at the press conference when asked about the likelihood of Republicans unifying against the bill. But, he added, “I think there ought to be a view among GOP members… that these are good government reforms no matter who the president is.”