Keith Ellison on Government Reform
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D, FL-20): We, as Members of Congress, have responsibility not just for the institution, but for the staff that work for this institution, and to preserve the facilities that help support this institution. We have endeavored to do that responsibly, and I believe we have accomplished that goal.
Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. SCALISE (R, LA-1): It's a sad day when someone attempts to cut spending in a bill that grows government by the size of 7%, and it's not allowed to be debated on this House floor. Some of their Members actually used the term "nonsense" and "foolishness" when describing our amendments to cut spending; they call that a delaying tactic. Well, I think Americans all across this country want more of those types of delaying tactics to slow down this runaway train of massive Federal spending. Every dollar we spend from today all the way through the end of this year is borrowed money. We don't have that money. We need to control what we're spending.
Proponents support voting YES because:
This measure will more effectively regulate, but does not ban, the practice of registered lobbyists bundling together large numbers of campaign contributions. This is a practice that has already taken root in Presidential campaigns. "Bundling" contributions which the lobbyist physically receives and forwards to the candidate, or which are credited to the lobbyist through a specific tracking system put in place by the candidate. This bill requires quarterly reporting on bundled contributions.
We ultimately need to move to assist the public financing of campaigns, as soon as we can. But until we do, the legislation today represents an extremely important step forward.
Opponents support voting NO because:
This legislation does not require that bundled contributions to political action committees, often referred to as PACs, be disclosed. Why are PACs omitted from the disclosure requirements in this legislation?
If we are requiring the disclosure of bundled contributions to political party committees, those same disclosure rules should also apply to contributions to PACs. Party committees represent all members of that party affiliation. PACs, on the other hand, represent more narrow, special interests. Why should the former be exposed to more sunshine, but not the latter?
The fact that PACs give more money to Democrats is not the only answer. Time and again the majority party picks favorites, when what the American people want is more honesty and more accountability.
Proponents support voting YES because:
This bill corrects a 200-year-old oversight by restoring to the citizens of the District of Columbia the right to elect a Member of the House of Representatives who has the same voting rights as all other Members.
Residents of D.C. serve in the military. They pay Federal taxes each year. Yet they are denied the basic right of full representation in the House of Representatives.
The District of Columbia was created to prevent any State from unduly influencing the operations of the Federal Government. However, there is simply no evidence that the Framers of the Constitution thought it was necessary to keep D.C. residents from being represented in the House by a voting Member.
Opponents support voting NO because:
The proponents of this bill in 1978 believed that the way to allow D.C. representation was to ratify a constitutional amendment. The Founders of the country had the debate at that time: Should we give D.C. a Representative? They said no. So if you want to fix it, you do it by making a constitutional amendment.
Alternatively, we simply could have solved the D.C. representation problem by retroceding, by giving back part of D.C. to Maryland. There is precedent for this. In 1846, Congress took that perfectly legal step of returning present-day Arlington to the State of Virginia.
Proponents support voting YES because:
This bill would strengthen one of our most important weapons against waste, fraud and abuse, and that is Federal whistleblower protections. Federal employees are on the inside and offer accountability. They can see where there is waste going on or if there is corruption going on.
One of the most important provisions protects national security whistleblowers. There are a lot of Federal officials who knew the intelligence on Iraq was wrong. But none of these officials could come forward. If they did, they could have been stripped of their security clearances, or they could have been fired. Nobody blew the whistle on the phony intelligence that got us into the Iraq war.
Opponents support voting NO because:
It is important that personnel within the intelligence community have appropriate opportunities to bring matters to Congress so long as the mechanisms to do so safeguard highly sensitive classified information and programs. The bill before us suffers from a number of problems:
Introductory statement by Sponsor:
Sen. CLINTON: I rise today to introduce legislation that will create an undergraduate institution designed to cultivate a generation of young leaders dedicated to public service. The US Public Service Academy Act (The PSA Act) will form a national academy to serve as an extraordinary example of effective, national public education.
The tragic events of September 11 and the devastation of natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita underscore how much our Nation depends on strong public institutions and competent civilian leadership at all levels of society. Congress must take a step forward to ensure competent civilian leadership and improve our Nation's ability to respond to future emergencies and to confront daily challenges.
This legislation will create the US Public Service Academy to groom future public servants and build a corps of capable civilian leaders. Modeled after the military service academies, this academy will provide a four-year, federally-subsidized college education for more than 5,000 students a year in exchange for a five year commitment to public service.
The PSA Act will meet critical national needs as the baby-boomer generation approaches retirement. Already, studies show looming shortages in the Federal civil service, public education, law enforcement, the non-profit sector and other essential areas.
Unfortunately our young people are priced out of public service careers all too often. By providing a service-oriented education at no cost to the student, the PSA Act will tap into the strong desire to serve that already exists among college students while erasing the burden of enormous college debt.
The establishment of a United States Public Service Academy is an innovative way to strengthen and protect America by creating a corps of well-trained, highly-qualified civilian leaders. I am hopeful that my Senate colleagues from both sides of the aisle will join me today.
Makes it unlawful for anyone before or during a federal election to knowingly communicate false election-related information about that election, with the intent to prevent another person from exercising the right to vote. Increases from one year to five years' imprisonment the criminal penalty for intimidation of voters.
Introductory statement by Sponsor:
Sen. OBAMA: This bill seeks to address the all-too-common efforts to deceive voters in order to keep them away from the polls. It's hard to imagine that we even need a bill like this. But, unfortunately, there are people who will stop at nothing to try to deceive voters and keep them away from the polls. What's worse, these practices often target and exploit vulnerable populations, such as minorities, the disabled, or the poor. We saw countless examples in this past election.
Congressional Summary:Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act): Amends the Securities Exchange Act and the Commodity Exchange Act to prohibit purchase or sale of either securities or commodities by a person in possession of material nonpublic information regarding pending or prospective legislative action.
Bill explanation (ProCon.org, "Insider Trading by Congress", Feb. 3, 2012):
The result of Citizens United was that "Super PACs" spent millions on TV ads in the 2012 election, advocating both issues and candidates. The DISCLOSE Act attempts to reduce the negative effect of Citizens United by requiring disclosure of independent expenditures made by advocacy groups.
A BILL to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require States to establish a minimum period of 15 days for early voting prior to the date of an election for Federal office and to ensure that no individual will be required to wait for longer than one hour to cast a ballot at a polling place in an election for Federal office.
Disclosure of Information on Spending on Campaigns Leads to Open and Secure Elections Act of 2013 or DISCLOSE 2013 Act:
Congressional Summary:Fair Elections Now Act--Amends 1971 FECA with respect to:
Statement of support for corresponding Senate bill: (Sunlight Foundation) Now we bring you the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, a bill that should probably be the least controversial of all. S. 375 would simply require senators and Senate candidates to file their public campaign finance disclosure reports electronically with the Federal Election Commission, the way House candidates and presidential candidates have been filing for over a decade. A version of the bill has been introduced during every congress starting in 2003 (!) yet it has been blocked repeatedly, a victim of political football.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has introduced the most recent version, which would ensure that paper Senate campaign finance reports are a thing of the past. But even with 50 bipartisan cosponsors, the bill faces an uphill battle. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, has repeatedly prevented the bill from coming to the Senate floor. We won't be deterred--as long as McConnell continues to block the bill, we'll continue to highlight that his intransigence results in delayed disclosure of vital, public campaign finance information, not to mention wasting $500,000 in taxpayer money annually. Eventually, we'll win.
Congressional Summary:Amends the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with respect to the requirement that a federal court retain jurisdiction for an appropriate period to prevent commencement of new devices to deny or abridge the right to vote. Expands the types of violations triggering the authority of a court to retain such jurisdiction to include certain violations of the Act as well as violations of any federal voting rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or membership in a language minority group. [This bill would ban requiring photo IDs in order to vote].
Opponents recommend voting NO because:Sen. Bob Dole (on related bill from 2007, whether to add an amendment allowing photo ID): I am proposing a commonsense measure to uphold the integrity of Federal elections. My amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls would go a long way in minimizing potential for voter fraud. When a fraudulent vote is cast and counted, the vote of a legitimate voter is cancelled. This is wrong, and my amendment would help ensure that one of the hallmarks of our democracy, our free and fair elections, is protected. Opinion polls repeatedly confirm that Americans overwhelmingly support this initiative.Proponents support voting YES because:Sen. Dianne Feinstein (on related bill from 2007): If one would want to suppress the vote in the 2008 election, one would vote [for Dole's amendment] this because this measure goes into effect January 1, 2008. It provides that everybody who votes essentially would have to have a photo ID. If you want to suppress the minority vote, the elderly vote, the poor vote, this is exactly the way to do it. Many of these people do not have driver's licenses. This amendment would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to actually carry out. It goes into effect--surprise--January 1, 2008 [to affect the presidential election].
Proponent's argument in favor (by Reps. Nancy Pelosi & John Sarbanes): Citizens United shook the foundation of our democracy: the principle that it is the voices of the people, not the bank accounts of the privileged few, that determine the outcome of our elections and the policies of our government. Most members of Congress would leap at the chance to fund their campaigns without having to turn to a familiar cast of big donors and entrenched interests. Today, that's virtually impossible. But we can and must break the grip of special interests on our politics: rally around H.R. 20.
Opponent's argument against (The Examiner): The proposed legislation seeks to undo the Citizens United v. FEC ruling which has been a thorn in the side of progressives ever since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that political spending was "a form of protected speech under the First Amendment." Although the "Government by the People Act" innocently claims to want to get big money out of politics, the real goal is to smash the Tea Party. The fear that conservative groups would have access to funds typically granted to progressive groups and unions was too much to bear.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA:Rep. Sarbanes: Big money warps Congress' priorities and erodes the public's trust in government. This bold new legislation returns voice and power back to the American people:
Opponents reasons for voting NAY:(Bill Moyers, Feb. 19, 2015): This citizen engagement strategy, particularly when used to court small donors, is not without its critics. Small donors, at least in the current system, often tend to be political ideologues. That trend leaves many asking: won't moving to small donors just empower extremists? Sarbanes counters, if Congress changes the political fundraising rules, they will also change the calculus for "the rational small donor who right now isn't going to give $25 because they've figured out that it's not going to matter." The prospect of a 6-to-1 match might very well impact how those less ideologically extreme potential donors think about political giving.
Congressional Summary: To repeal the Federal Election Campaign provisions which established separate contribution limits for contributions made to national parties to support Presidential nominating conventions, national party headquarters buildings, and recounts.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA: Rep. KILMER. This legislation repeals the last-minute changes to campaign finance law that were tacked into a 1,600-page bill to fund the government. As a result of this legislation, the wealthiest donors can now each contribute more than $750,000 per year to a political party, more than seven times the previous cap. Worst of all, these changes were buried in a bill with no hearing and no public debate. This bill protects the interests of "We the People" and make sure that the wealthiest donors don't get another chance to flood our elections with even more money and to undermine our democracy.
Opponents reasons for voting NAY: (Washington Post article, Oct. 9, 2014): The FEC said that contributions to presidential convention committees will not count against the annual limit on donations to national parties--allowing wealthy donors to double their support for party operations. The FEC's move came in response to a rare joint request by the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, which argued that they needed a new avenue to raise funds for the events after a federal law eliminated public funding for the conventions. But critics of the decision said the FEC created an end-run around federal contribution limits. Under the current rules, individuals can give up to $32,400 per year to a national party committee. Now, donors will be able to give an additional $32,400 each year to a separate committee set up to finance the quadrennial convention. That means that a single donor could give nearly $130,000 to support a party and its convention in a two-year election cycle.
Congressional Summary: Sets forth procedures for admission into the United States of the state of New Columbia.
Opponents reasons for voting NAY: (DCist.com, Sept. 2014): The Argument Against: Congress does not have the authority to grant statehood to D.C.; the 23rd amendment, which gave D.C. three electoral votes, would have to be repealed before statehood was granted. Washington is a wholly urban, one-industry town, dependent on the federal government far in excess of any other state. Moreover, with Congress no longer having authority over New Columbia but dependent on it, New Columbia could exert influence on the federal government far in excess of any other state.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA: [Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC; the District of Columbia has one representative to Congress and no Senators; Rep. Holmes can introduce bills but her vote does not count]: This 51st state would have no jurisdiction over the federal territory or enclave that now consists of the Washington that Members of Congress and visitors associate with the capital of our country. Those would remain under federal jurisdiction. The New Columbia Admission Act was the first bill I introduced in 1991. Statehood is the only alternative for the citizens of the District of Columbia. To be content with less than statehood is to concede the equality of citizenship that is the birthright of our residents as citizens of the United States.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA: (BrennanCenter.org): Too many Americans go to vote on Election Day only to find their names are not on the voter rolls--often, wrongly deleted. The US is on the verge of a new paradigm for registering voters: automatic, permanent registration of eligible voters, which would add up to 50 million eligible voters to the rolls.
Opponents reasons for voting NAY: (Gov. Christie's veto message on the "Democracy Act", Nov. 2015): Christie called a provision establishing automatic voter registration that requires New Jerseyan to opt out a "government-knows-best, backwards approach that would inconvenience citizens and waste government resources for no justifiable reason." Automatic voter registration would have added 1.6 million people to the state's voter rolls.
Rep. CONYERS: "Since the late 1950's, the pernicious practice of 'voter caging' has been used to discourage or prevent eligible voters from casting their vote. Recent elections have shown that caging tactics are not outdated, and in fact, have disenfranchised voters in recent midterm and Presidential elections. While caging efforts have traditionally been directed at minority communities, all voters are susceptible to these attempts at voter intimidation and suppression.
"The undemocratic practice of voter caging involves sending mail to voters at the addresses at which they are registered to vote. Should such mail be returned as undeliverable or without a return receipt, the voter's name is placed on a 'caging list.' These caging lists are then used to challenge a voter's registration or eligibility.
"In my home State of Michigan, I have seen firsthand how caging efforts are used to harass, bully, and ultimately disenfranchise, eligible voters. With a Michigan lawmaker advocating 'suppress the Detroit vote,' I cannot help but think that is synonymous with 'suppress the Black vote' as Detroit is 83% African American. These voter suppression campaigns always seem to target our most vulnerable voters--racial minorities, low-income people, homeless people, and college students.
"Caging tactics meant to suppress the vote do more than impede the right to vote. They threaten to erode the very core of our democracy. By eliminating barriers to the polls, we can help restore what has been missing from our elections--fairness, honesty, and integrity."
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Newly-elected Democrats taking office Jan.2015:
AZ-7: Rep.-Elect Ruben Gallego
CA-11:Rep.-Elect Mark DeSaulnier
CA-31:Rep.-Elect Pete Aguilar(R⇒D)
CA-33:Rep.-Elect Ted Lieu
CA-35:Rep.-Elect Norma Torres
FL-2: Rep.-Elect Gwen Graham(R⇒D)
HI-1: Rep.-Elect Mark Takai
MA-6: Rep.-Elect Seth Moulton
MI-12:Rep.-Elect Debbie Dingell
MI-14:Rep.-Elect Brenda Lawrence
NE-2: Rep.-Elect Brad Ashford(R⇒D)
NJ-12:Rep.-Elect Bonnie Coleman
NY-4: Rep.-Elect Kathleen Rice
PA-13:Rep.-Elect Brendan Boyle
VA-8: Rep.-Elect Donald Beyer
Seated in special elections 2013-2014:
AL-1: Bradley Byrne(R)
IL-2: Robin Kelly(D)
LA-5: Vance McAllister(R)
MA-5: Katherine Clark(D)
MO-8: Jason Smith(R)
NJ-1: Donald Norcross(D)
SC-1: Mark Sanford(R)
VA-7: Dave Brat(R)
Newly-elected Republicans taking office Jan.2015:
AR-2: Rep.-Elect French Hill
AR-4: Rep.-Elect Bruce Westerman
AL-6: Rep.-Elect Gary Palmer
CA-25:Rep.-Elect Steve Knight
CA-45:Rep.-Elect Mimi Walters
CO-4: Rep.-Elect Ken Buck
FL-26:Rep.-Elect Carlos Curbelo(D⇒R)
GA-1: Rep.-Elect Buddy Carter
GA-10:Rep.-Elect Jody Hice
GA-11:Rep.-Elect Barry Loudermilk
GA-12:Rep.-Elect Rick Allen(D⇒R)
IA-1: Rep.-Elect Rod Blum(D⇒R)
IA-3: Rep.-Elect David Young
IL-10:Rep.-Elect Robert Dold(D⇒R)
IL-12:Rep.-Elect Mike Bost(D⇒R)
More newly-elected Republicans taking office Jan.2015:
LA-5: Rep.-Elect Ralph Abraham
LA-6: Rep.-Elect Garret Graves
ME-2: Rep.-Elect Bruce Poliquin(D⇒R)
MI-4: Rep.-Elect John Moolenaar
MI-8: Rep.-Elect Mike Bishop
MI-11:Rep.-Elect Dave Trott
MN-6: Rep.-Elect Tom Emmer
MT-0: Rep.-Elect Ryan Zinke
NC-6: Rep.-Elect Mark Walker
NC-7: Rep.-Elect David Rouzer(D⇒R)
NH-1: Rep.-Elect Frank Guinta(D⇒R)
NJ-3: Rep.-Elect Tom MacArthur
NV-4: Rep.-Elect Cresent Hardy(D⇒R)
NY-1: Rep.-Elect Lee Zeldin(D⇒R)
NY-21:Rep.-Elect Elise Stefanik(D⇒R)
NY-24:Rep.-Elect John Katko
OK-5: Rep.-Elect Steve Russell
PA-6: Rep.-Elect Ryan Costello
TX-4: Rep.-Elect John Ratcliffe
TX-23:Rep.-Elect Will Hurd
TX-36:Rep.-Elect Brian Babin
UT-4: Rep.-Elect Mia Love(D⇒R)
VA-10:Rep.-Elect Barbara Comstock
WA-4: Rep.-Elect Dan Newhouse
WI-6: Rep.-Elect Glenn Grothman
WV-2: Rep.-Elect Alex Mooney
WV-3: Rep.-Elect Evan Jenkins(D⇒R)
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