How the ‘For the People’ Act Can Help Restore Faith in Our Democracy
Many Americans believe our political system is in a state of disrepair – broken, partisan, or worse, corrupt. And it’s not hard to see why.
America’s democracy is awash in dark money, straightjacketed by gerrymandered districts and plagued by voter suppression. If we’re actually going to solve the problems facing our nation, like affordable health care and creating good paying jobs, we need to make sure our political system works for all Americans.
It’s time we return to government for the people and by the people. That’s why this month we passed H.R. 1 in the House – the “For the People” Act – a sweeping anti-corruption and democracy reform package that will help ensure that the government is working for ordinary Americans, not special interests. The reforms included in this legislation will help restore Americans’ faith in their democracy by strengthening our ethics laws, combatting dark money in politics, and ensuring the right of all American citizens to vote.
The “For the People” Act will simplify voter participation by encouraging automatic voter registration, expanding absentee and early voting, and making Election Day a national holiday. It will also prohibit purging voter rolls, ban partisan gerrymandering and introduce strong election security measures to prevent meddling in our voting, from foreign or domestic actors.
Next, this legislation would bring about sweeping ethics reforms to guarantee that public officials are working on behalf of the American people, not well-funded interests. H.R. 1 would restrict members of Congress from serving on for-profit boards of directors to avoid potential conflicts of interest. It would also prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to settle cases of employment discrimination. The legislation also requires transparency on the part of anyone running for President or vice president of the United States, requiring candidates and sitting Presidents and vice presidents to make their tax returns public.
The third pillar of the “For the People” Act focuses on how campaigns are financed and the influence of special interests and corporations. These changes would help combat the disproportionate influence of big money in politics by requiring organizations involved in political activity to disclose large donors and funding sources. The legislation would also level the playing field by requiring that political spending online is disclosed, just as political spending on television or radio is disclosed. These improvements would reduce the influence of dark money and foreign agents on our political system, making for a more transparent and fairer system.
There is a reason we’re prioritizing substantive reforms to strengthen our democracy. Our nation currently faces momentous challenges, and our political system will need to rise to meet them. Everything we need to do for the American people – reducing health costs and prescription drug prices, creating better-paying jobs, preventing gun violence and combatting climate change – all follow from a democracy that puts people first.
The “For The People” Act would go a long way towards strengthening the very bedrock of our democracy by restoring the faith of the American people in their government. I was proud to co-sponsor and vote for this bill in the House of Representatives, which now goes to the Senate. I hope my Senate colleagues will put strengthening our democracy front and center, where it belongs, and pass H.R. 1.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) represents California’s 28th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.