Today the House of Representatives passed the Protecting Our Democracy Act, a set of ethics and emergency-powers reforms. The legislation was introduced in September.
Martha Kinsella, senior counsel in the Democracy Program of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, had the following comment:
“The House has taken an important step toward preventing presidents and other executive branch officials from abusing their power. Passing the Protecting Our Democracy Act is the logical thing to do to ensure that government personnel serve the public interest rather than pursue personal or partisan gain.
“The bill the House passed today would make it possible, at last, to enforce the emoluments clauses — the Constitution’s ban on profiting personally from business with foreign powers abroad and state governments at home.
“The Protecting Our Democracy Act would also make it more difficult for the White House to interfere in federal law enforcement at the Department of Justice. And the bill would bring much-needed transparency to the presidential pardon process. It would also bolster Congress’ role as a backstop against abuse of emergency powers.
“These reforms are critical to the health of American democracy. In our country’s history, we’ve seen officials on both sides of the aisle at times ignore existing guardrails, with the Trump Administration regularly flouting ethical norms. In passing the Protecting Our Democracy Act, the House is protecting core principles of public service, and now the Senate must pass these critical reforms.”
Background and Resources
Many of the reforms in the bill align with recommendations from the Brennan Center’s National Task Force on Rule of Law & Democracy, a bipartisan group that studied weaknesses in government ethics and the rule of law and recommended solutions. Former Governor Christine Todd Whitman and Preet Bharara served as the task force’s co-chairs.
- “It’s Time to Enact Reforms to Curb Executive Branch Abuses” (Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and Preet Bharara, The Hill, Sept. 28, 2021)
- “Deciding What’s a National Emergency Needs to Be the Work of Two Branches” (Elizabeth Goitein, The Fulcrum, March 27, 2021)
- “After Four Years of Abuse, Tangible Fixes Abound for Restoring the Rule of Law” (Martha Kinsella and Daniel Weiner, The Fulcrum, March 17, 2021)
- “The Law Governing National Emergencies Needs Fixing” (Elizabeth Goitein, New York Times, Feb. 12, 2020)
- Proposals for Reform: National Task Force on Rule of Law & Democracy (Brennan Center, Oct. 2018)