House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have unveiled legislation to significantly diminish the powers of the executive branch, and they are claiming President Donald Trump forced their hand by shattering presidential norms.
The so-called Protecting Our Democracy Act would also prevent the executive branch and other federal officials from accepting foreign gifts by codifying the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
The Hatch Act would also be bolstered under the legislation, which would establish fines of $50,000 for violations.
The 158-page package also targets the traditional relationship between the White House and the Justice Department by requiring all contacts between the attorney general and the White House to be logged.
Pelosi attacked Trump when discussing the proposal with reporters.
“During this once-in-a-generation moment, the Congress has a sacred obligation for the people to defend the rule of law and restore accountability and basic ethics to the government. And that is exactly what we’re doing,” the speaker said.
“It is sad that the president’s actions have made this legislation necessary,” she said.
“As with other things, he gives us no choice,” the California Democrat added.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California told ABC News, “We owe it to the American people to put meaningful constraints on power, fix what is broken, and ensure that there is never again another Richard Nixon or Donald Trump from either party.”
“Even in a dangerous world, the threat to our democracy from outside the country is less than the threat from within,” Schiff said.
The legislation targets executive branch powers that Democrats have accused the president of breaking for years.
It includes proposals to compel presidents to comply with congressional subpoenas and to prevent presidents from profiting financially from being in office. (Trump’s net worth has declined from about $3.7 billion to $2.1 billion during his time in the White House, according to Forbes reports in September 2016 and March 2020.)
Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts took a veiled swipe at Trump when commenting on the proposal.
“Congressional subpoenas are not requests that recipients can easily brush aside,” Neal said, according to The Hill.
Neal, the head of the House Ways and Means Committee, added that congressional subpoenas “are indispensable as a tool that this body uses to investigate potential wrongdoing … and to prevent future abuses.”
After Watergate, Congress passed landmark reforms to ensure that those abuses of power would never happen again.
And after three and a half years of Trump, it’s clear we need a new set of reforms — now.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) September 23, 2020
While he spoke of the Democrats’ proposal as being a general reining in of executive branch powers, Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky made it clear that the proposed legislation is aimed at Trump.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a more brazen violator of the power of the purse than Donald Trump,” Yarmuth said.
Added the Kentucky Democrat, “What’s made it worse is it’s not in advance of … some philosophical agenda, it’s his own personal political agenda.”
House Democrats don’t expect to vote on the legislation this year, according to The Hill, and it is unlikely the GOP-controlled Senate would take up the matter were it to pass in the House.
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