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Democrats call for a Senate vote on elections reform package

August 22, 2019

NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Democratic congressmen held an event Thursday in Rhode Island to try to pressure Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell into allowing a vote on a comprehensive elections and ethics reform package.

Maryland Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes, who is the bill’s main author, met with Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in North Providence.

The influence of big money in politics is impeding efforts to address climate change, gun violence and prescription drug costs, they said. Activists working on those issues attended the event.

“This isn’t just some theory, like wouldn’t it be good to reform government because good government is an abstract idea,” Cicilline said. “It has a direct effect on people’s lives. The corrupting influence of money and its impact on public policy is hurting the American people.”

The legislation, called H.R. 1 to signify its importance, would make it easier to register and vote, require “dark money” political groups to make their donors public, and create a public financing system for congressional campaigns that Democrats say will cut down on corruption and reduce the power of lobbyists and other special interests.

It would also tighten election security and require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns. The House passed it in March , with all Democrats voting “yes” and all Republicans voting “no.”

Republicans say that the bill is a thinly disguised power grab that would expand government, and that it amounts to a federal takeover of elections. McConnell, who pronounced it dead on arrival, has said that among the flaws in the bill, the disclosure requirements for political donations would curb Americans’ First Amendment rights by making their private information public. The American Civil Liberties Union also expressed concern with the disclosure requirements.

Sarbanes, Cicilline and Whitehouse all said the reforms are crucial to making the government respond to the needs of the American people, rather than special interests and corporations, and restore the public’s faith in government.

Sarbanes said they’re also asking voters to choose a team of reformers in 2020 and not reelect President Donald Trump, whom he called a “demagogue.”

“Mitch McConnell is standing at the doors of the United States Senate with his arms crossed, saying to the American people, ‘You shall not pass,’” he said. “We’re going to keep the pressure on him. The message to him is, if you won’t put that the bill on the floor, then we’re going to try to change the composition to make sure it gets to the floor. Democrats have made a promise to clean up government.”

The White House has said Trump would veto the bill if it reached his desk.

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