Newly empowered House Democrats set priorities for next Congress

Rep. Ruben Gallego speaking at a rally for transgender rights at the Arizona Capitol

By Brendan Campbell | Cronkite News

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, makes no bones about it – the first bill in the next Congress aims to send the message that there are “new hands in charge of this government, and it’s going to be for the people.”

That bill, HR 1, is a three-pronged package for top Democratic reform efforts that grew out of a June resolution cosponsored by 165 Democrats in the House, calling for campaign finance reform, stronger congressional ethics oversight and better ballot access.

Other provisions in the bill are expected to include national automatic voter registration, nonpartisan redistricting and the restoration of federal oversight of state elections, a role that was greatly reduced by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act.

The plan, laid out last summer while Democrats were still the House minority, is a clear signal that they want to flex their muscle after midterm elections saw the party gain 40 seats and retake control of the chamber.

“The American people sent us a clear message” at the polls, Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, said in an emailed statement.

 “They want to end the culture of corruption in Trump’s Washington, hold elected officials accountable and make government more responsive to the people,” said Sarbanes, the principal author of the bill. “And Democrats plan to deliver.”

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