The U.S. House on Wednesday will start debate and votes on a sweeping package of election, voting, and government ethics reforms, pressing the case for major changes to make it easier to vote, make it more difficult to place barriers in the way of voters, and to make reforms in ethics laws dealing with government officials in the nation’s capital.
“This Democratic majority was elected to clean up this place and clean up our politics,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), as he kicked off a meeting of the House Rules Committee on Tuesday evening the set the ground rules for debate over the next three days.
The panel agreed to allow for votes and debate on 72 different amendments to the over 600 page bill, which has drawn criticism not just from Republicans - but also from some usual allies of Democrats.
"The American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of its 3 million members, supporters and activists, opposes H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2019 as it was reported out of the House Administration Committee," the ACLU wrote in a letter trumpeted by Republican opponents of the measure.
While the ACLU noted its support for a number of provisions in the bill, the civil liberties group said in a letter, "there are also provisions that unconstitutionally impinge on the free speech rights of American citizens and public interest organizations."
Republicans were more than happy to run with those ACLU concerns.
As for the details and scope of the floor debate, the House Rules Committee on Tuesday began sorting through the dozens of amendments submitted to the 622 page bill.
The bill is obviously complicated - as it has not only a 14 page table of contents, but also a 446 page report produced by a House panel to explain the changes made by the bill in terms of voting, election and ethics laws.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 169 amendments had been submitted to the Rules Committee, and their variety was a reminder of how much ground this bill covers. Here are just a few examples of what will be debated:
+ Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) wants to offer an amendment which would block federal funds from being spent at businesses 'owned or controlled by the President, Vice President, or a Cabinet member.'
+ Rep. Charles Crist (D-FL) wants to offer an amendment which requires states to hold at least one day of Early Voting on a Sunday before an election.
+ Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) wants to offer an amendment requiring paper ballots to be used in all elections for federal office.
+ Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) wants to offer an amendment which strips the power of subpoena authority for the head of the Office of Government Ethics.
The proposed amendments also include a number of plans from GOP lawmakers which would take various steps to make sure that illegal immigrants are not allowed to either register to vote, or actually cast a ballot.
Some of those GOP plans did not make the cut:
+ Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) wanted to offer an amendment to strike a provision in the bill which makes Election Day a national holiday every two years.
+ Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) wanted to offer an amendment eliminating provisions dealing with automatic voter registration.
+ Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) wanted to offer an amendment to end the option on your federal tax return to add $3 to the public financing fund for Presidential campaigns.
For those interested in some of the legislative minutiae, here is a list of the 72 amendments which have been approved for floor debate beginning on Wednesday:
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