House approves post-Trump restrictions on presidential power

WASHINGTON – The House on Thursday passed a broad set of constraints on presidential power, which Democrats touted as a response to the ...


WASHINGTON – The House on Thursday passed a broad set of constraints on presidential power, which Democrats touted as a response to the presidency contrary to Donald J. Trump’s standards and Republicans opposed it for the same reason.

In a vote close to the party line of 220 to 208, the House approved the Protecting Our Democracy Act, which would place further restrictions on executive power. Proponents of stronger government ethics have long called for a number of measures, and Republicans supported them, but they have been reclassified as partisan issues because of their association with Mr. Trump.

“Worryingly, the last administration saw our democracy in crisis with a rogue president who trampled the safeguards protecting our Republic,” said President Nancy Pelosi. “Now Congress has the solemn responsibility and opportunity to protect our democracy, ensuring that past abuses can never be perpetrated by a president of any party. “

The legislation would require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns, which Mr. Trump refused to do.

The law would also strengthen the Constitution’s previously obscure ban on presidents receiving emoluments or payments, by extending the anti-corruption ban to commercial transactions. Mr. Trump’s refusal to divest itself of its hotels raised the question of whether lobbyists and other governments that have started paying for many rooms in Trump complexes – and sometimes don’t use them – were trying to buy his favor.

The bill would also require campaigns to report any offers of foreign aid to the FBI – a proposal that resonates with episodes uncovered in the Russia investigation, such as when Donald Trump Jr. and other senior campaign officials met at Trump Tower with Russians, they were told had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The package is now passing through the Senate, where the 60-vote threshold to pass a law means Republicans can block it. Rep. James Comer, the Republican from Kentucky who managed his party’s debate in the House, said there was “no apparent path for the bill in the Senate.”

But supporters of the bill plan to split it up and tie different components to other Senate laws in an effort to regain bipartisan support for elements Republicans have supported in the past.

Among other things, the bill would make it more difficult for presidents to grant pardons in contexts similar to corruption. It would create new protections against the dismissal of inspectors general without just cause or retaliation against whistleblowers. And that would limit a president’s ability to spend or secretly freeze funds unlike congressional appropriations.

It would also speed up prosecution of congressional subpoenas so that obstruction of the executive branch could not waste time on surveillance efforts; demand that the Department of Justice provide Congress with logs of contacts with White House officials; and strengthen the Hatching Act, which prohibits federal employees from participating in workplace election campaigns.

The path to legislation has also been slowed by uncertainty among Senate Democrats over support for the Biden administration. The White House released Thursday morning a administration policy statement who backed the bill, citing “the formidable but essential challenge of strengthening the standards and guarantees that prevent our democracy from eroding.”

Ian Bassin, founder and executive director of Protect Democracy, which backs the bill and has worked with House Democrats to craft some of its provisions, praised the White House for supporting the legislation even though it would restrict executive power.

“The Biden administration deserves major credit here for doing something that leaders rarely do: agree to support legislative restrictions on their own power,” Bassin said, adding: “Now that the White House has announced its support, it must work with the Senate to adopt these provisions as soon as possible.

Still, the White House statement was not without reservation. It included a vague caveat that the administration would continue to work with Congress to ensure the bill upholds “the long-standing interests of the executive which are essential to effective governance and the efficient use of resources.” taxpayers and compatible with our constitutional structure ”without specifying any specific provisions that concern it.

The White House had spent months negotiating with House Democrats, who abandoned some of their original ideas in response to its constitutional or political objections before presenting the package in September. But Democratic lawmakers insisted on retaining some provisions with which the administration had expressed concerns, according to people familiar with the matter, including making it harder for presidents to fire inspectors general.

Throughout a nearly four-hour debate on the bill and the amendments, House Democrats described its provisions as necessary to correct weaknesses in the U.S. separation of powers system that the Trump administration had exposed .

“Our system was founded on respect for the rule of law and a carefully constructed balance of power between the three branches,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and main sponsor of the bill. “This system has been tested throughout history. And just like after Watergate, Congress struggled to enact reforms, so now we need to examine and fix the loopholes in the democratic foundation. That is what this bill does.

Republicans have described it as a partisan attack on Mr. Trump, while swinging between denouncing Trump-related investigations and bringing up other issues such as inflation, violent crime, illegal immigration, gasoline prices and fears of electoral fraud.

“This bill is nothing more than a continuation of the Democrats’ obsession with President Trump,” said Rep. Mary Miller, Republican from Illinois.

Democrats sent a confused message as to whether they wanted the bill to be seen as about Mr. Trump. They have at times insisted that this is the future, pointing out that he is no longer president and that many elements of the bill have Republicans’ support in other contexts.

“Joe Biden is our president now,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, who managed her party’s debate. She added, “And these good, bold government reforms will have an impact on his administration, as well as the future presidents of both parties.” It is not about the past; it is about the future and the strengthening of our democracy.

But Democrats have also continued to highlight the abuses of the Trump era – and lawmakers on both sides have raised the possibility of him running for president again. Interpreting the bill in part as a referendum on Mr. Trump’s actions has turned out to be an inescapable political reality.

“Aside from the Democrats’ neurotic obsession with all things Donald Trump, there are many provisions in this measure that would enjoy bipartisan support if the mover of the bill were so inclined,” Rep. Tom McClintock said. , Republican of California.

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Newsrust - US Top News: House approves post-Trump restrictions on presidential power
House approves post-Trump restrictions on presidential power
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