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Protecting Our Democracy Act

House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) speaks while flanked by House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to her right and, holding a document, House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) to her left in the U.S. Capitol on December 9, 2021. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite Trump Abuses, 208 House Republicans Vote Against Bill to Ensure 'No President Is Above the Law'

"The overreach and abuses of the last administration exposed a series of loopholes and problems that urgently need to be addressed."

Brett Wilkins

As the Democrat-led U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday almost entirely along party lines in favor of proposed legislation to curb executive power and bolster transparency, proponents of the bill urged the Senate to pass the measure to help "restore the balance of powers and fix our democracy." 

"It's time for lawmakers of both parties in the Senate to take up the mantle and swiftly pass the Protecting Our Democracy Act. The integrity of our country's most powerful office is at stake."

House lawmakers voted 220-208 in favor of H.R. 5314, the Protecting Our Democracy Act, with just one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, joining every Democrat except two who did not vote in approving the measure (the full roll call is here).

The proposed legislation, which was introduced by House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), would require presidents and vice presidents, as well as major-party presidential and vice-presidential candidates, to disclose their income tax returns. It would also increase penalties for violations of the Hatch Act, ban presidential self-pardons, and strengthen Justice Department and congressional subpoena powers, among other reforms.

Some of the measure's co-sponsors hailed its passage by the lower chamber.

Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) said in a statement that former President Donald Trump, who faces civil and criminal probes,"abused the powers of his office to protect and enrich himself, family, and friends while targeting his political opponents and soliciting foreign interference to help his election."

"The Protecting Our Democracy Act will prevent future presidential abuses of power, protect our elections, and restore checks and balances," she added. "These protections are vital to the future of our republic."

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) added that the twice-impeached Trump "took a sledgehammer to the foundations of our democracy and left our democratic institutions teetering on the edge. It is our duty, as a Congress and as a country, to clean up the rubble and repair the damage before he or someone of his ilk swings the hammer again."

Schiff asserted: "Today, the House delivered a simple, unequivocal message—our democracy is worth fighting for. We will not allow the abuses that defined the previous administration to become our norms, nor will we will allow a future autocratic president, Democrat or Republican, to exploit weaknesses in our democratic institutions."

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said, "Unfortunately, recent experience has exposed vulnerabilities in our democracy that point to a desperate need for reform."

"The Protecting Our Democracy Act reasserts this important principle by ensuring that the presidency is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, providing effective enforcement of congressional subpoenas, preventing misuse of the pardon power, and strengthening the independence of the Department of Justice," he added.

House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) asserted, "With today's House passage of the Protecting Our Democracy Act, we are sending a clear message that no president—regardless of political party—is above the law."

"I'm proud to have helped lead this landmark bill to preserve our democracy, restore accountability to the American people, and protect those who are brave enough to speak truth to power," she said.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) took to Twitter to celebrate the passage of four amendments she offered:

Prior to Thursday's vote, Schiff told the campaign finance reform group End Citizens United that Republican lawmakers should welcome a bill to limit executive power—especially when the president is a Democrat.

"So many of our Republican colleagues live in utter fear of the former president, but as a policy matter they have every reason to like the policy provisions in this bill," Schiff said, according to Roll Call. "Even a Republican Party that is hostile to voting rights should want the power to constrain an executive, particularly given that the current executive is a member of the other party."

Democracy defenders joined House Democrats in urging the Senate to approve the measure so President Joe Biden can sign it into law.

Sean Eldridge, founder and president of the advocacy group Stand Up America, said in a statement that "thanks to the leadership of Rep. Adam Schiff and many others, the House has taken the critical first step to ensure that no president is above the law."

"It's time for lawmakers of both parties in the Senate to take up the mantle and swiftly pass the Protecting Our Democracy Act," he added. "The integrity of our country's most powerful office is at stake."

Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president at the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, asserted that "our nation's balance of powers is out of whack, like an overloaded seesaw teetering toward the executive branch."

"The overreach and abuses of the last administration exposed a series of loopholes and problems that urgently need to be addressed," she continued. "It is long past time to restore the balance of powers and fix our democracy."

"We look to the U.S. Senate to take up the bill," Gilbert added, "and send these commonsense proposals to curb presidential abuses of power and bolster the system of checks and balances to the president's desk."

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