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Lisa Gibert is executive vice president Public Citizen. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.
On Jan. 6, we saw a president incite violence against our nation’s Capitol in his abject refusal to accept a clear electoral defeat. It was a terrifying final act of norm-busting in a damaging and unbalanced presidency. Distrust in our government has never been greater, and with good reason.
Just 20 percent of U.S. adults say they trust Washington to “do the right thing,” according to the Pew Research Center. With the current dual crises of a pandemic and a struggling economy, the Biden administration faces the herculean task of building back a government that people will believe in. Reestablishing trust won’t be easy, but our clearest pathway toward a new and more equitable democracy would be to pass the “For the People Act.”
This proposed legislation addresses the long-term, systemic problems caused by corruption, too much money in politics and impediments to voting access. It would repair the damage caused by the disturbing behavior we’ve seen under President Donald Trump and assist the process of rebuilding faith in our democracy.
Just days before chaos descended on our Capitol, the “For the People Act” was reintroduced in the new, 117th Congress as House Resolution 1, or H.R. 1. This designation underscores its status as a top legislative priority and demonstrates Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s deep commitment to reforming our campaign finance, ethics, voting systems and the rule of law.
This sweeping legislative package addresses key areas of reform essential to making our government work more effectively and fairly for all Americans. It will end partisan gerrymandering and affirm the principle of one person, one vote. It will provide sweeping campaign finance reforms to end dark money and curb the influence of special interests and corporate influence in our elections. It will slow the revolving door between public service and the private sector, and rein in executive branch ethics abuses. And it will strengthen oversight and enforcement of commonsense ethics laws and rules, among many other critical reforms.
In a loud voice in November, and again in Georgia on Jan. 5, the American people cast their ballots in support of candidates and officeholders committed to cleaning up Washington and holding the government accountable. In record numbers, they voted for Joe Biden — a president-elect committed to undoing the damage of the past four years, including the rampant corruption, and self-dealing that defined the destructive Trump administration. And voters reaffirmed their commitment to change by delivering control of the Senate to Democrats through the two Georgia runoff elections.
H.R.1’s proposals are a powerful salve to what ails this nation, and what we just saw in Georgia last Tuesday was a clear call for this medicine. Now, the American people need to see their politicians deliver. The House should pass H.R.1 quickly, and the Senate should use every tool it has to do the same, with the new president leading the charge.
More than 800 elections experts surveyed by Harvard University in December recommended H.R.1 as part of a program of comprehensive reforms to “restore confidence in American elections.” Let’s all work together to get this bill on the new president’s desk as soon as possible.
Our democracy may depend on it.