With the midterm elections just over a week away, Democrats have begun touting an ethics reform package that will top their legislative agenda if they take over the House of Representatives.
On Tuesday, approximately 100 advocacy groups will announce their support for the legislation, which is still being written, as part of a campaign called “A Declaration for American Democracy.”
The package is expected to incorporate proposals for campaign finance reform, voting rights and ethics and accountability. The latter is expected to include a provision that President Donald Trump must release his tax returns.
Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland introduced a resolution incorporating these proposals in June with 160 cosponsors, but it never reached the floor in the Republican-controlled House.
Some of the groups that have signed on are largely associated the progressive movement, like MoveOn, NARAL Pro Choice America, Planned Parenthood, and Indivisible. Others like Common Cause and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, are non-partisan organizations largely focused on oversight, which have filed complaints or taken legal action against the Trump Administration. (CREW filed a lawsuit in January 2017 alleging violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution).
Sarbanes, who chairs the Democracy Reform Task Force and introduced the resolution in June told TIME the broad base of support is indicative of Democrats’ unity when it comes to the overriding legislative goal of holding the Administration accountable.
“Having all of those statements, those commitments in a sense published before the election happens reminds us all that it’s an important priority and it’s bound up in the outcome of this election,” he said Monday. “The timing is appropriate in terms of putting your marker down but also to just send a signal that this has to be first order of business when a new congress convenes in January.”
But Sarbanes acknowledges that won’t happen if Republicans retain control of the chamber. “There’s not enough Republican support for something as bold and aggressive like something in the reform space that we intend on bringing to the floor,” he said.
Democrats need to flip 23 seats to regain control of the House of Representatives. While Republicans have publicly said they have seen their chances of electoral success in November increase since the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh earlier this month, polling shows Democrats are still the heavy favorite to regain control of that chamber. A forecast from the data website FiveThirtyEight posits that, as of Monday, Democrats have an 86.6 percent chance of winning the House, while Republicans have a 13.4 percent chance of retaining it.
Lisa Gilbert, the Vice President of Legislative Affairs for Public Citizen, one of the organizations signing on with the campaign, and who is also working with House Democrats on the package, said she expects the advocacy to persist even if the bill doesn’t become law. Pushing the bill, she said, is only “one piece of the puzzle.”
“We’re going to be pushing this into the Presidential campaigns. We’re going to be seizing on this even if the House doesn’t flip and Republicans are in charge still. The set of reforms that we want, its bigger than any single moment,” Gilbert told TIME.
Sarbanes did express confidence that the bill will pass the chamber if the Democrats are in the majority, regardless of who prevails in the leadership elections the party has scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving. But he stopped short of saying it would succeed in the Senate if Republicans, as expected, retain their majority there.
“I would hate to put a probability on that,” he said.
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