How an anti-corruption bill became a showdown on democracy
Democrats seeking House seats in Republican-leaning districts ran on a poll-tested platform of eradicating corruption in Donald Trump’s Washington, removing money from politics, and stopping partisan gerrymandering. Nancy Pelosi, the freshly elected speaker, sought to embody those campaign promises in House Resolution 1, the new Democratic House’s first measure. It stood little chance of becoming law with Republicans controlling the Senate and Trump in the White House.
The bill’s journey to this point has been marked by shifting political imperatives, practical hurdles, legislative revisions, and, ultimately, Republican resistance. “Maybe it started as a wish list for those who wanted to cement our democracy,” Senator Amy Klobuchar adds, “but it turned into the salvation for our democracy.” The bill was doomed after a procedural vote in the Senate fell far short of the 60 votes needed to advance. Democrats had intended to leverage their slim House and Senate majority to push the bill through.
Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) “Authoritarianism thrives on gloom and a sense of powerlessness among the majority against the minority.” “We must fight as hard as we can but never accept the notion that our battles are unwinnable,” says Sen. Mark Udall. The bill did not begin as a fight for democracy’s future, as Democrats portray it, or as a partisan power grab, as Republicans represent it.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, claims she was “vigorously opposed” to a bill that would have made it easier to vote. The bill’s focus switched from early voting, mail-in balloting, and other measures to Russian election intervention in the future. “It was so visceral about how real it was,” says Klubuchar.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, says she was working on a bill that would have changed the rules of the election system after Democrats took control of the Senate. The bill became a showdown between two parties, saying the American experiment itself is at stake. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader, called the bill an effort to “rig the rules in the Democrats’ favour.”
The bill might be broken down into four parts, each of which would have far-reaching consequences on its own. The presidential and vice-presidential tax returns would have to be made public under the ethics provision. The part on voting rights would establish a minimum of 15 days for early voting and increase the no-excuse mail-in vote. The condition on campaign funding would introduce public financing of elections into congress.
Senator Rick Scott of Florida claims that Democrats are “voting to give themselves money.” Senator Angus King, D-Maine, argues that public election financing is “charity for politicians.” A Democratic senator from Maine claims he warned his colleagues that if he voted for the bill, Republicans would attack him.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) “I just don’t think it’s a popular bill,” she says. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) “It only goes to show why the legislation needs to be as broad as it is.” A Monmouth University poll found widespread support for early voting in person but significant disagreement over expanding mail-in franchise. The bill hasn’t changed much since it was introduced in 2019, but the messaging has.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) “If Congress fails to act to save democracy, it sends a powerful and dangerous signal.” After the Sept. 11 attacks, he added, a Capitol Police officer reminded him that lawmakers gathered on the Capitol steps and committed to respond — as Americans. The officer lamented the intense partisanship surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, as well as the botched response to the Capitol attack