Congressman Courtney Votes to Pass Sweeping Government Reform Bill H.R. 1: the For The People Act
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) joined the Democratic Caucus in voting to pass H.R. 1, the For the People Act, a package of sweeping reforms to remove dark money from politics, make it easier for Americans to exercise the right to vote, end the process of partisan redistricting nationwide, and impose new, higher standards of ethics for elected officials. Courtney is a co-sponsor of the legislation, which passed the House by a vote of 234-193. Following passage of H.R. 1, Courtney issued the following statement:
“The political system has increasingly been focused on catering to the wealthy and the powerful–to special interests rather the public’s interests – and that has come at the great expense to American public,” said Congressman Courtney. “There are a litany of concerns wearing away at Americans’ confidence in the federal government, and it’s critical that Congress take action to restore the promise of our nation’s democracy. That’s why the new House Majority made the For the People Act a top priority in this new session of Congress. H.R. 1 fights back against the dominance of dark money in politics, creates greater accountability for public officials, makes voting easier and more accessible, and makes long overdue investments to protect the integrity of our elections. The bill has gone through the appropriate legislative process and has been the subject of hearings at multiple committees, and has support from a host of labor, conservation, faith, and justice organizations across the country. Voting to advance this legislation was a vote for the American people and for the future of our democracy, and it’s appropriate that this bill was made a top priority for this new Congress.”
H.R.1, the For the People Act, is the House Majority’s transformative set of government reforms that seeks to combat the dominance of dark money in American politics, ensure fair elections, and put the American people – not special interests – first. Selected highlights of H.R. 1 include:
RESTORING FAITH IN DEMOCRACY: ENSURING CLEAN AND FAIR ELECTIONS
- Automatic voter registration – requires state election officials to automatically register to vote any eligible, unregistered citizens while also protecting those who are ineligible to vote and mistakenly registered from prosecution.
- Promotes online registration – requires states to make available online voter registration, correction, and party affiliation designation.
- Reaffirms commitment to restoring Voting Rights Act – declares that Congress finds that the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County vs. Holder ushered in a new era of voter suppression and that, per the ruling, Congress should restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act by updating the formula for determining which jurisdictions are subject to federal preclearance.
- Paper ballots – requires voting systems in every state to use individual, durable, voter-verified paper ballots that are counted by hand or with an optical recognition device.
- Ends partisan gerrymandering – requires states to adopt independent redistricting commissions for the purposes of drawing Congressional districts instead of allowing politicians to pick their voters.
- Election security measures – requires the Department of Homeland Security to designate election infrastructure as critical and assess threats to the system at least 180 days prior to a federal election; creates a National Commission to Protect United States Democratic Institutions to counter threats; and requires testing of voting systems at nine months before a federal election.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM: ENDING THE DOMINANCE OF DARK MONEY IN POLITICS
- Foreign money ban – strengthens the ban on foreign money in elections by prohibiting foreign nationals from participating in decision-making about contributions or expenditures by corporations and other entities.
- Unmasks dark money – requires super PACs, 501(c)4 groups and other organizations spending money in elections to disclose donors who contribute more than $10,000 and forbids organizations to transfer money to keep the identity of the contributor secret.
- Honest ads – requires digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter to maintain a public database of political ad purchase requests of more than $500 and directs online media outlets to implement measures to prevent ads being directly or indirectly purchased by foreign nationals.
- Supports ending Citizens United – affirms that the Constitution should be amended to clarify Congress and the States have the authority to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures, nullifying the Citizens United decision.
- Publicly financed small donor match – establishes a voluntary small dollar matching system, funded by wealthy tax cheats and corporate lawbreakers, on donations up to $200 for House candidates who demonstrate broad-based support and reject high-dollar contributions and provides similar voluntary public matching funds for small contributions to participating presidential candidates.
- Expands authorized campaign expenses – allows candidates to use campaign funds to pay for child care, elder care, and health insurance premiums in an effort to make it possible for candidates with modest means to run for public office.
ETHICS AND ACCOUNTABILITY: ENSURING PUBLIC OFFICIALS WORK FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST
- Foreign agents – increases resources for the Foreign Agents Registration Act office within the Department of Justice, and creates a foreign agents investigation and enforcement unit.
- Expands lobbying disclosure requirements – requires those that provide counseling in support of lobbying contracts to register as under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
- Presidential appointees – requires all Presidential appointees to recuse themselves from any matter in which a party is the President, the President’s spouse, or any entity in which the President or the President’s spouse has a substantial interest. Also requires individuals nominated or appointed to Senate-confirmed positions and other senior-level positions to disclose contributions by, solicited by or made on behalf of an individual.
- Presidential conflicts of interest – requires the President and Vice President to file a new financial disclosure statement within 30 days of being sworn into office and prohibits both the President and Vice President from contracting with the U.S. government.
- White House Ethics – requires all ethics waivers granted to those in the Executive Branch be disclosed to the Office of Government Ethics and the public.
- Taxes and the President – requires sitting Presidents and Vice Presidents, as well as candidates for President and Vice President, to make their tax returns public.
- Slowing the special interest revolving door – prohibits senior federal officials from leaving government service and attempting to influence employees in their former agency or office for two years; creates a similar “cooling off” time period for federal procurement officers who leave government service from accepting any compensation from a contractor to which the officer awarded a contract.
- Congressional conflicts of interest – forbids Members of Congress from serving on for-profit, corporate boards and codifies rules prohibiting Members, their family and staff from using their official position to benefit their own financial interests.
- Ends taxpayer-settled harassment lawsuits in Congress – prohibits Members of Congress from using taxpayer funds to settle any case of employment discrimination that the Member was personally involved in.