The first steps on the “long, long journey” that a bill takes on its way to becoming law have begun for H.R. 1. The first numbered bill of the 116th Congress had its second hearing in the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Wednesday, following a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee last week.,
H.R. 1 is a sweeping bill, taking on many of the highest profile issues in modern democracy, including money in politics, ethics, suffrage and voter registration, and gerrymandering. Originally introduced by U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, (D-MD) the bill has taken on 227 additional co-sponsors. Its scope and status make clear that voting and democracy will be the first priority of the new House majority in 2019 (H.R. 1 for the 115th Congress was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017). This priority was emphasized in Tuesday’s Democratic response to the State of the Union, in which Stacey Abrams stated emphatically: “The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders - not where politicians pick their voters.”
Although all of H.R. 1’s cosponsors so far are Democrats, democracy is not and should not be a partisan issue. Americans are increasingly concerned about the state of our democracy, as made clear by the surge of bills (often with strong bipartisan support) for better election methods in states.
H.R. 1’s first hearings attracted testimony from several high profile organizations, with representatives from Common Cause, Project on Government Oversight, Brennan Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and Institute for Free Speech all testifying Wednesday, and representatives from Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Public Interest Legal Foundation, Campaign Legal Center, the Constitution Project, and the Heritage Foundation testifying last week. For more background on the bill and to yesterday’s testimony, see the hearing page at the website for the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and the hearing page at the website for the House Judiciary Committee.