Democrats propose new restraints on White House aimed at Trump

Tribune Content Agency

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats on Wednesday rolled out a sweeping draft package of reforms they say would prevent future presidential abuses of power and more effectively combat foreign interference in U.S. elections.

The late congressional session package ranges from bills to expedite enforcement of subpoenas, to curbs on the use of presidential pardons and enhanced federal whistle-blower protections, to requirements for campaigns to report foreign contacts.

Some of these proposals directly relate to the frequent and ongoing stand-offs between President Donald Trump’s administration and Democratic-led House investigative committees, including testing the legal limits of constitutional checks and balances of the two branches of government.

It’s uncertain, however, whether a Democratic-led House would maintain its appetite for advancing those reforms if Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump in November.

“Since taking office, President Trump has placed his own personal and political interests above the national interest by protecting and enriching himself, targeting his political opponents, seeking foreign interference in our elections, eroding transparency, seeking to end accountability, and otherwise abusing the power of his office,” explained seven House committee chairman in a joint written statement, before releasing the package with Pelosi.

Led by Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Oversight and Reform Chair Carolyn Maloney, the seven chairmen added: “It is time for Congress to strengthen the bedrock of our democracy and ensure our laws are strong enough to withstand a lawless president.”

Some of the proposals would seek to clear up such matters as empowering courts to levy fines on government officials who deliberately fail to comply with congressional subpoenas, or tackle other issues such as whether presidents and vice presidents can be held accountable for criminal conduct and preventing them from using their offices as a shield to avoid legal consequences.

Chances are slim this collection of legislation — dubbed the Protecting Our Democracy Act — will actually advance in the House, much less the Republican-led Senate. The lateness of this two-year congressional session, which is now in the stretch run of the presidential and congressional elections, makes that doubtful.

Even the seven chairman describe the package as draft legislation and a work in progress, acknowledging some matters require more information and legal refining.

Yet the Democrats Wednesday described the package as an early marker of reforms needed “not only because of the abuses of this president, but because the foundation of our democracy is the rule of law and that foundation is deeply at risk.”


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