House Democrats unveil legislation to curtail presidential power
House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled legislation that aims to curtail presidential power and protect against abuse of power by future presidents, in an apparent rebuke of former President Trump’s time in the White House.
The bill, dubbed the Protecting Our Democracy Act, includes a number of tenets to prevent presidential abuses, restore checks and balances, strengthen accountability and transparency, and protect elections.
It is sponsored by nine House Democrats — all of whom chair committees — and is supported by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). It also includes legislation offered by a number of other Democratic lawmakers.
The group mentioned the Trump administration in its description of the bill on its website, writing that the “aggrandizement” of presidential power “reached new heights” under the former president.
“The proposals respond to longstanding vulnerabilities in our democracy that have allowed for the aggrandizement of presidential power, many of which have been exploited over decades by presidents of both parties, and some of which reached new heights through the actions of the Trump administration,” the bill’s website reads.
“PODA responds to these abuses as lessons from which both parties must learn,” it adds.
The bill was first introduced during the 116th Congress. The House Democrats said it is the third pillar of the current Congress’s efforts to “protect, support, and restore the people’s faith in America’s democratic systems,” joining the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
The legislation specifically calls for prohibiting self-pardons by the president, suspending the statute of limitations for federal offenses made by a sitting president or vice president, strengthening Congress’s ability to enforce lawfully issued subpoenas, protecting inspector general independence and federal whistleblowers and strengthening the Office of Special Counsel’s ability to probe Hatch Act violations.
Additionally, the bill proposes requiring presidents, vice presidents or major party candidates for those offices to provide 10 years of tax returns to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), which is then required to make them public. If the president, vice president or candidate does not comply, the Treasury secretary would then be required to hand them over to the FEC.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a co-sponsor of the bill, said Trump exposed “fault lines” in America’s democracy that still remain even though he is out of office.
“While Donald Trump is no longer president, the fault lines he exposed in the foundation of our democracy remain — ready for a future unethical president to exploit. These weaknesses continue to erode the American people’s trust in our democratic institutions and the norms that are essential to a functioning democracy,” Schiff said in a statement.
“As Congress pursues its mission to strengthen and protect our democracy for future generations, these reforms will help ensure that we can keep our cherished republic,” he added.
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