H.R. 1: Strengthening Our Democracy

Now that the Blue Wave has turned control of the House of Representatives over to the Democrats, they have the opportunity to use their new powers to demonstrate a big, bold, progressive vision for the future. This is exactly the strategy that we call for in our new guide, Indivisible on Offense.

There’s good news: they plan to do exactly that. We expect the very first bill in the Democratically-controlled House to be a democracy reform package, focused on voter empowerment and access, getting big money out of politics, and cracking down on corruption.

We’re planning a day of action on January 3 to urge the House to pass H.R. 1 as soon as possible without watering it down or breaking it up. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Start with Democracy Reform?

As you know far too well, the election of Donald Trump (and the first two years of his administration) has brought into sharp focus the importance of preserving and protecting our democracy against Republican attempts to erode it. While systematic problems with our democracy are longstanding, Trump and his GOP enablers have added a sickening layer of corruption, as they work to further suppress the vote, profit off of the Presidency, and attack essential democratic norms and the rule of law. Democrats have an opportunity to push back and to change course.

Without a functional democracy in which everyone is included and represented,  we can’t achieve any of our other priorities. All the issues we care about deeply: health care, immigration, ending wars, racial justice, climate change — fixing these things requires a democracy that is responsive to the people, not the powerful and wealthy.

Additionally, we just saw in the midterm elections how hard Republicans are working to suppress the vote and specifically to disenfranchise people of color. It is crucial that Democrats show their commitment to fight even harder to ensure that everyone has the unimpeded right to participate in our democracy.

Why is H.R. 1 Such an Important Legislative Vehicle?

Bill number 1 is usually reserved for the top legislative priority of the party in control of that chamber. In the last Congress, H.R. 1 was reserved for the GOP’s number one priority: the #GOPTaxScam, a massive handout to corporations and the wealthy.

By choosing to prioritize strengthening our democracy as H.R. 1, the Democrats are signaling that they are ready to fight the big fights and root out the unhealthy parts of our democracy that allowed Donald Trump to be elected in the first place.

This is exactly the right choice, and we want to demand that they follow through with this plan by passing H.R. 1 without watering it down or breaking it up.

What’s Actually in H.R. 1?

We expect H.R. 1 to be a robust package that includes these essential reforms:

  • Voter empowerment and access. Through measures such as automatic voter registration, same-day registration, restoring the Voting Rights Act, protecting against improper purging of voter rolls, requiring states to upgrade and secure their election systems, restoring voting rights to those with past criminal convictions, providing adequate early voting opportunities, and preventing partisan gerrymandering through independent redistricting commissions, H.R. 1 helps ensure that everyone is included and represented in our democracy, and has unimpeded opportunities to participate.

  • Money in politics. A constitutional amendment is needed to overturn the chaos that Citizens United and related decisions unleashed into our campaign finance system. H.R. 1 starts that process immediately. Additionally, it further stems the tide of big money in our politics by amplifying small-dollar donations through public financing, encouraging small-dollar donations through tax incentives, eliminating “dark money” by requiring disclosure of all political spending (including online ads), cutting off cooperation between candidates and super PACs, and empowering the Federal Election Commission to truly enforce campaign finance law.

  • Ethics and corruption. Trump and his cronies regularly engage in self-dealing, corruption, and conflicts of interest, without a single rebuke from the Republican-controlled Congress. H.R. 1 cracks down by making sure that ethics rules apply to all government officials - including Trump. This means demanding disclosure of and divestment from his financial interests that pose conflicts of interest, and then for the rest of the executive branch locking the “revolving door” of lobbyists and government officials, prohibiting bribery, and demanding full disclosure of information revealing potential and actual conflicts of interest.

What can I do to Make Sure H.R. 1 Passes the House?

You can ask your Representative to publicly demand that H.R. 1 be a bold, progressive, comprehensive democracy package that includes reforms on voter empowerment and access, money in politics reforms, and corruption fixes.

Note: the situation is rapidly changing, and lots could happen between now and the start of the new Congress. Stay tuned for important updates and asks for your Representative!

You can also sign up to host or attend a “Whose House? Our House!” event on January 3. By holding these coordinated events around the country to kick off the new Congress, we are holding our elected officials accountable. We are telling them that they must prioritize undoing the damage that Trump and his GOP enablers have done to our democracy, and use their power to create institutions in which we are all represented, included, and protected.