H.R. 1 returns power to the people
• Mar 09, 2019
In late November, I joined a group of future House colleagues to outline the For The People Act, or H.R. 1, a bill that sets a clear tone for the new Congress. The legislation is the first priority of our history-making freshman class, a group that was elected by focusing on changing the way Washington works.
My first two months in Congress have proved to me that our system is not working the way it was intended. We’ve been through the longest shutdown in American history, witnessed an unconstitutional national emergency declaration that defies the will of Congress and the American people, and seen regular partisan political fights.
Through the dysfunction, there have also been encouraging signs and reasons for hope. The shutdown ended because a bipartisan committee from the House and Senate got in the same room and worked out a compromise, an important roadmap for how to get things done. At the same time, our freshman class is focused on changing the system and not succumbing to it, and we’re proud to have led the effort to pass major legislation to return the power in our nation’s capital to the people.
The For The People Act recognizes that we can’t realize action on urgent priorities if we don’t shore up our democracy. Right now, the outsized influence of big money, corporations, and special interests takes power away from everyday Americans. In addition, members of Congress too often act in their own self-interests and seek to use their position as a stepping stone to lucrative careers after politics. To top it off, voting rights are being eroded and too many Americans are encountering barriers to participate in the democratic process.
H.R. 1 is designed to take common sense steps to address these challenges. If we cast aside the influence of big money, ensure that members of Congress are working for you and not themselves, and protect the right to participate in elections, our democracy will be better for it and our system will serve you better.
The legislation includes an array of pro-democracy, anti-corruption reforms that are a breath of fresh air. H.R. 1 tightens requirements for lobbyists, unmasks anonymous dark money donors to campaigns, and incentivizes candidates who raise money from small, grassroots donors.
There are provisions that will help end the culture of corruption that unfortunately is alive and well. The bill strengthens the Office of Government Ethics, slows down revolving door between Congress and the special interests, and makes politicians—not taxpayers—liable for sexual harassment settlements.
Because we must ensure everyone can exercise their right to vote and the will of voters is supreme, H.R. 1 makes it easier—not harder—to participate in the electoral process. The legislation ends partisan gerrymandering, requires automatic voter registration nation-wide, and expands early voting opportunities in federal elections.
Too many Americans have lost faith in our system’s ability to secure results for regular people, and they wonder if we can ever make progress on major issues like climate change, health care, the cost of college, or expanding middle class opportunity. Now is the time to recognize that we can do better by getting back to basics.
I was proud to stand with my colleagues this week and vote to pass the For The People Act in the House, and I am hopeful it will gain further traction. This is truly a monumental step toward reform, but the fight is far from over. Let’s continue to work to restore the pillars of our democracy and get Washington back to work for us. Let’s restore a government that is truly of, by, and for the people.
Manchester Democrat Chris Pappas represents New Hampshire’s First Congressional District.
You can read the full op-ed by Chris Pappas here.