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Political Information Last Updated: Sep 21, 2021 - 8:57:06 PM

House Democrats Unveil Legislation to Curtail Presidential Power
By Mychael Schnell
Sep 21, 2021 - 8:54:09 PM

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Mychael Schnell
The Hill
Tue, 21 Sep 2021

Pelosi© Drew Angerer/Getty Images
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

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 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 some "aggrandizement" of presidential power "reached new heights" under the former president. The bill's website reads:

"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. PODA responds to these abuses as lessons from which both parties must learn."

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 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. He said:

"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.

"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."

Comment: Rep. Adam Schiff and other Dems reveal their new legislation, however, a nonstop rant on Trump overshadows every aspect of the bill, aimed to deflect the current presidential fiasco in office.

Washington Post had previously outlined some of the bill's aspects:

Schiff, Nadler and Lofgren are co-authors of the bill, along with Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.).

The bill gives the independent Office of Special Counsel express authority to investigate suspected violations of the Hatch Act, and issue fines of up to $50,000 for every violation that the president fails to discipline himself.

The package mirrors several measures to better regulate the relationship between the White House and Justice Department, which Democrats believe has been too cozy under the leadership of Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr. It reflects a proposal from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) requiring the attorney general to keep a log of certain communications with the White House and periodically share it with the DOJ inspector general and Congress, and a bill from Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) exempting the time a president or vice president spends in office from the statute of limitations for any federal crime. Nadler's measure seeks to ensure that the Justice Department's policy against indicting sitting presidents does not become a means for avoiding prosecution entirely.

The measure also includes several provisions to limit the president's ability to interfere with congressional appropriations, by putting a time limit on emergency declarations and prohibiting the president from holding back congressionally-approved funding any later than 90 days before it expires - a change that aims to close a loophole the administration has used to effectively cancel unspent funds, particularly foreign aid, near the end of the fiscal year.

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