House Approves Bill to Guard Against Presidential Abuses
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday intended to guard against the kind of presidential abuses of power that former President Donald Trump is accused of committing.
Lawmakers were responding to actions such as Trump’s denials that Biden won the 2020 election, his refusal to comply with House Democrats’ subpoenas of his top staff members, pardons for Trump’s political allies and apparent abuses of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause to benefit his private business.
“We will not allow the abuses that defined the previous administration to become our norms, nor will we allow a future autocratic president, Democrat or Republican, to exploit weaknesses in our democratic institutions,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the bill’s chief author, in a statement.
Called the Protecting Our Democracy Act, the House passed it along party lines by a 220-208 margin.
Schiff called on the Senate to pass the bill “so Congress can fulfill its mission of safeguarding our democracy for generations to come.”
Schiff is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which convened the first impeachment inquiry against Trump in 2019.
Key provisions of the bill would:
- Require the Justice Department to inform Congress about presidential pardons or criminal sentence commutations for presidents or their relatives.
- Suspend the statute of limitations to prosecute a president or vice president for a federal crime.
- Accelerate judicial procedures to enforce congressional subpoenas.
- Authorize fines against government officials who evade congressional subpoenas and inquiries.
- Require the president and vice president, as well as candidates for the jobs, to turn over the previous 10 years of their tax returns to the Federal Election Commission.
- If the political leaders refuse to turn over their tax returns, the Treasury Department would be assigned to release them to the FEC, which would make them public.
- Political committees would be required to report to the FBI and FEC their contacts with potential foreign adversaries.
The bill was so directly targeted at Trump that it drew criticism from his Republican supporters.
“After nearly a year in power, it’s time for Democrats to actually start governing and abandon their obsession with Donald Trump,” said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky.
He also questioned whether the Protecting Our Democracy Act inappropriately reduces the president’s authority.
For similar reasons, Senate Republicans say they might try to filibuster the legislation to block its passage.
President Joe Biden appeared to take a swipe at Trump Thursday as he convened a White House meeting among international leaders to discuss how to shore up global democratic governments and institutions.
“Here in the United States, we know as well as anyone that renewing our democracy and strengthening our democratic institutions requires constant effort,” Biden said.
Moments later he appeared to refer to Trump’s allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 election when he said, “We’re making it easy for Americans to register to vote, and we’ve doubled the number of attorneys defending and enforcing voting rights laws through our Department of Justice.
“And my administration is going to keep fighting to pass two critical pieces of legislation that will shore up the very foundation of American democracy: the sacred right of every person to make their voice heard through free, fair and secure elections.”
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