I'm not one to shy away from calling out conservative Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- the Blue Dogs and New Dems primarily. But, of course, there is a difference between even the worst of the Democrats-- your Gottheimers, Schraders, Cases, Correas, Goldens, Costas, Spanbergers-- and actual Republicans. In fact, last night when Adam Schiff's Protecting Our Democracy Act (H.R.5314) came up for a vote, it passed 220-208, with every single Democrat-- even Henry Cuellar, the Democrat who votes most frequently with the GOP-- voting aye. Every Republican but Adam Kinzinger-- even the pretend mainstream conservatives like Katko, Valadao, Upton, Fitzpatrick, Van Drew, Meijer, Herrera Beutler, as well as Rodney Davis, Chris Davis and Mario Diaz-Balart-- voted no.
"Disturbingly," said Nancy Pelosi, "the last administration saw our democracy in crisis with a rogue president who trampled over the guardrails protecting our Republic. Now, Congress has the solemn responsibility and opportunity to safeguard our democracy, ensuring that past abuses can never be perpetrated by any president of any party."
In his summary of the bill, meant to address any future abuses by a Trump-like corrupt, authoritarian-oriented president, Schiff wrote that it "addresses issues involving (1) abuses of presidential power; (2) checks and balances, accountability, and transparency; and (3) foreign interference in elections."
Specifically, regarding abuses of presidential power, the bill
requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the President to submit to Congress specified materials relating to certain pardons,
prohibits self-pardons by the President,
suspends the statute of limitations for federal offenses committed by a sitting President or Vice President,
prohibits the acceptance of foreign or domestic emoluments, and
sets forth provisions regarding Office of Government Ethics and Office of Special Counsel jurisdiction and enforcement authority.
To address checks and balances, accountability, and transparency, the bill
authorizes specified actions to enforce congressional subpoenas,
imposes limits on presidential declarations of emergencies,
requires DOJ to maintain a log of specified communications between it and the White House,
requires cause for removal of inspectors general,
increases whistleblower protections,
requires a candidate for President or Vice President to submit to the Federal Election Commission a copy of the individual's income tax returns for the 10 most recent taxable years, and
establishes penalties for political appointees who engage in prohibited political activities.
To protect against foreign interference in elections, the bill
requires federal campaign reporting of foreign contacts,
requires federal campaigns to establish a foreign contacts compliance policy, and
specifies that foreign donations to political campaigns and candidates of nonpublic information relating to a candidate are prohibited.
That's what all the Republicans-- other than Kinzinger-- voted against. And what even the worst of the conservative Democrats voted for. Derek Marshall, a progressive Democrat running in a California district north and east of San Bernardino that is currently held by Republican Jay Obernolte, told this morning that he his expectations that his opponent would stand up for democracy weren't high. "Jay voted to object to the certifications of Arizona and Pennsylvania and he has voted no on pretty much everything else. So I’m not surprised that he would vote no on strengthening our Democracy. While he strikes a moderate tone in town halls, his voting record tells the true story and puts him in lockstep with the hardliners in the Republican Party."
Steven Holden is the progressive Democrat taking on fake moderate John Katko in Central New York. This morning he told me that Katko "has continually voted in ways to undermine our democracy and support the rise of authoritarianism here in America. He voted against the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act, which could prevent the rampant gerrymandering across the country and disenfranchised communities of color. Furthermore, he voted against the Janurary 6th Commission because he does not want his fellow right wingers to be held accountable. He did that after he was threatened by Kevin McCarthy and Trump after they threatened to take money away from him. Also, he did not vote for the censure of Paul Gosar. He is more concerned with becoming a Committee Chair and pushing his agenda than he is about protecting us against authoritarian rule."
Illinois QAnon congresswoman, Mary Miller, babbled nonsensically, but very much in line with GOP hive thought that "This bill is nothing but a continuation of the Democrats’ obsession with President Trump." Arkansas' fascist-leaning Republican, Rick Crawford, spoke for all the Republicans when he said that "the clear intent of this bill is to weaponize federal bureaucracy against Republican candidates," a shocking admission about which party is overtly corrupt and anti-democratic.
Last night, Charlie Savage wrote that "The legislation would require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns, which Trump refused to do. The act would also strengthen the Constitution’s previously obscure ban on presidents taking emoluments, or payments, by extending anticorruption prohibition to commercial transactions. Trump’s refusal to divest from his hotels raised the question of whether lobbyists and other governments that began paying for numerous rooms at Trump resorts-- and sometimes not using them-- were trying to purchase his favor. The bill would also require campaigns to report any offers of foreign assistance to the F.B.I.-- a proposal that resonates with episodes unearthed in the Russia investigation, such as when Donald Trump Jr. and other senior campaign officials met at Trump Tower with Russians they were told had dirt on Hillary Clinton... Among many other things, the bill would make it harder for presidents to bestow pardons in briberylike contexts. It would create new protections against firing inspectors general without a good reason or retaliating against whistle-blowers. And it would constrain a president’s ability to spend or secretly freeze funds contrary to congressional appropriations. It would also speed up lawsuits over congressional subpoenas so that stonewalling by the executive branch cannot run out the clock on oversight efforts; require the Justice Department to give Congress logs of contacts with White House officials; and strengthen the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in campaign politics at work."
It's amazing that Crawford would publicly admit this was aimed at Republicans! In fact, McConnell-- as aware as anyone of the dangers Trump or another Trump-like character would pose to America-- has every intention of using the Jim Crow filibuster to kill the bill in the Senate, where 10 Republicans would have to back it to even allow a debate. No one thinks there are more than 3 or 4 Republican votes-- at best-- for this bill.
Ian Bassin, a founder and the executive director of Protect Democracy, which supports the bill and worked with House Democrats on developing some of its provisions, praised the White House for supporting the legislation even though it would curb executive authority.
“The Biden administration deserves major credit here for doing something executives rarely do: agreeing to support legislative curbs on their own power,” Mr. Bassin said, adding: “Now that the White House has announced its support, it needs to work with the Senate promptly to enact these provisions.”
Still, the White House statement was not unqualified. It included a vague caveat that the administration would continue to work with Congress to ensure the bill would uphold “the longstanding interests of the executive branch that are essential to effective governance and efficient use of taxpayer resources and consistent with our constitutional structure” without specifying any particular provisions it had concerns about.
The White House had spent months negotiating with House Democrats, who dropped some of their original ideas in response to its constitutional or policy objections before introducing the package in September. But Democratic lawmakers insisted on keeping some provisions with which the administration had expressed concerns, according to people familiar with the matter, including making it harder for presidents to fire inspectors general.
Throughout a nearly four-hour debate on the bill and amendments, House Democrats portrayed its provisions as necessary to fix weaknesses in the American system of separation of powers that the Trump administration had exposed.
“Our system was founded upon a respect for the rule of law and a carefully constructed balance of powers among the three branches,” said Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California and the bill’s chief sponsor. “That system has throughout history been tested. And just as after Watergate, Congress worked to enact reforms, so we must now examine the cracks in the democratic foundation and address them. That’s what this bill does.”
A little hopeful news yesterday: A federal appeals court unanimously rejected, in no uncertain terms, Trump's frivolous claims to some kind of bogus "executive privilege" regarding the documents subpoenaed by Congress related to his attempted coup. The National Archives can now turn them over to the select committee, although Trump is expected to appeal to the right-wing, anti-democracy (and illegitimate) Supreme Court today. Watch Maddow explaining (last night) details and implications of the ruling: