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Statement in Support of the Protecting Our Democracy Act

The Brennan Center strongly urges the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass the Protecting Our Democracy Act into law.

Published: September 25, 2020

State­ment of the Bren­nan Center in support of H.R. 8363, the Protect­ing Our Demo­cracy Act

The Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law welcomes the intro­duc­tion of H.R. 8363, the Protect­ing Our Demo­cracy Act. Build­ing off of the ethics and rule of law provi­sions of H.R. 1, the For the People Act, this bill is an import­ant step towards rein­for­cing basic safe­guards against pres­id­en­tial abuses, restor­ing checks and balances between the legis­lat­ive and exec­ut­ive branches, strength­en­ing govern­ment account­ab­il­ity, and protect­ing our elec­tions. We are pleased to support this legis­la­tion.

Many provi­sions of the Protect­ing Our Demo­cracy Act align with propos­als cham­pioned by the Bren­nan Center’s National Task Force on Rule of Law & Demo­cracy — a group of former govern­ment offi­cials that includes both Repub­lic­ans and Demo­crats — which published a compre­hens­ive legis­lat­ive agenda to codify long­stand­ing guard­rails that ensure that govern­ment offi­cials serve the public interest. The follow­ing Task Force propos­als are reflec­ted in the bill:

  1. Codi­fic­a­tion of stand­ards for commu­nic­a­tions between the White House and the Depart­ment of Justice
  2. Trans­par­ency for contro­ver­sial acts of clem­ency
  3. Deterrence of self-pardons
  4. Estab­lish­ment of stand­ards and proced­ures for enfor­cing the Emolu­ments Clauses
  5. Clos­ure of loop­holes in the Federal Vacan­cies Reform Act to stop inap­pro­pri­ate appoint­ments of acting offi­cials
  6. Protec­tion for whis­tleblowers who report censor­ship of scientific research

The bill contains other import­ant reforms for which the Bren­nan Center advoc­ates, which include amend­ing the National Emer­gen­cies Act to bolster Congress’s role as a check against abuse and protect­ing our elec­tions from foreign inter­fer­ence.

Bren­nan Center Vice Pres­id­ent for Demo­cracy Wendy Weiser notes, “It is crit­ical for Congress to restore the basic guard­rails for our demo­cracy and to prevent abuse of power. The Bren­nan Center’s bipar­tisan Task Force put forth a number of common-sense legis­lat­ive solu­tions to do just that. We are pleased to see that the Protect­ing Our Demo­cracy Act reflects the Task Force’s work in so many crit­ical areas. This bill will help ensure the proper func­tion­ing of our demo­cratic system of govern­ment and should be low-hanging fruit for the next Congress.”

Eliza­beth Goitein, Co-Director of the Liberty and National Secur­ity Program at the Bren­nan Center, adds, “This import­ant reform pack­age would begin the neces­sary process of shor­ing up insti­tu­tional checks against pres­id­en­tial over­reach and abuse. It also would take signi­fic­ant steps toward restor­ing the proper balance of power between the pres­id­ent and Congress, partic­u­larly when it comes to the pres­id­ent’s exer­cise of emer­gency powers.”

We strongly urge the House of Repres­ent­at­ives and the Senate to take up this import­ant legis­la­tion and pass it into law.