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July 27, 2023

Rep. Schiff Introduces Landmark Bill to Strengthen and Protect Our Democracy

Schiff was joined by over 100 Members of Congress

Washington, DC — Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) reintroduced the Protecting Our Democracy Act, his landmark legislative package to strengthen the guardrails of our democracy against presidents or other officials who seek to abuse their power for personal gain. This Schiff-led comprehensive reform package is a key pillar of the Democrats’ Democracy agenda – an effort to protect, support, and restore faith in our democratic institutions – and is a key complement to the Freedom to Vote Act, which was reintroduced last week. Schiff was joined in introducing the legislation by Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), and Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.).

“Over the last several years, many of our democratic norms and institutions have been weakened, and the fragility of our system has been revealed in ways not seen since Watergate. After Watergate, Congress responded by enshrining certain reforms into law and we must now do the same. No president should be able to abuse the power of the office they are entrusted with, or marginalize a co-equal branch of government. I was proud to see the Protecting Our Democracy Act pass in the House last Congress — and some of its provisions signed into law. Now we must finish the job. I’m committed to seeing the entire package enacted into law, and to strengthening and protecting our democracy for future generations,” said Rep. Schiff.

“In their great wisdom, our Founders designed a system of checks and balances which have safeguarded the rights of the American people for two and a half centuries,” Speaker Emerita Pelosi said. “After the former President assaulted these guardrails, it is our solemn responsibility in the Congress to strengthen the rule of law, revitalize our system of checks and balances and restore our democratic institutions. Under the outstanding, patriotic leadership of Congressman Adam Schiff, House Democrats are proud to reintroduce our Protecting Our Democracy Act: sweeping, future-focused legislation to preserve the promise of American Democracy for generations to come.”

“Transparency and accountability are the bedrock of our democratic system. They are the essential guardrails that protect against unchecked executive power, but recent experience has exposed holes in the fabric of our democracy that point to the desperate need for reform. Among other things, the Protecting Our Democracy Act would ensure that the presidency is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, prevent abuse of the pardon power, provide effective enforcement of congressional subpoenas, and strengthen the independence of the Department of Justice. These and the other critical reforms contained in this legislation would ensure that no president—of either party—is above the law,” said Rep. Nadler, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee.

“The Protecting Our Democracy Act would strengthen voting rights, keep foreign money out of our elections, and prevent Trump-style abuses of the pardon power. These reforms would restore important checks and balances vital to American democracy. The legislation would also strengthen protections afforded to federal whistleblowers who play a crucial role in Congress’s oversight function by speaking out and exposing wrongdoing or corruption, often at great personal and professional risk,” said Rep. Raskin, Ranking Member of the House Oversight Committee.

"We live in a time of democracy recession worldwide. Unfortunately, America has not been immune to this worldwide trend,” said Rep. Boyle, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee. “The commonsense reforms included in the Protecting Our Democracy Act will strengthen our system of checks and balances, fortify our democratic institutions against threats both foreign and domestic, and reassert Congress’ constitutional power of the purse. I am proud to stand alongside Congressman Schiff and my colleagues in pursuit of these crucial reforms."

“The Protecting Our Democracy Act is needed legislation that will strengthen our democracy and safeguard it from future abuses from presidents who use their power for their own personal gain,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee. “Critically, this legislation would reassert Congressional power of the purse to prevent federal agencies from misusing funds. It ensures that presidents are not above the law or selfishly enriching themselves at the expense of the taxpayer. I am proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing this needed legislation.”

“In the shadow of an attempted insurrection and an escalation in malign influence by foreign adversaries, our nation’s democracy remains precariously balanced. As Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, I work every day to fortify the United States against threats both foreign and domestic. With meaningful reforms to deter presidential abuses of power and insulate our elections from illicit interference, this legislation is a critical step towards that goal,” said Rep. Jim Himes, Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee.

“Congress should be looking for progressive solutions to prevent abuse of power and safeguard democracy,” said Rep. Rick Larsen, Ranking Member of the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee. “The Protecting Our Democracy Act helps to return power to the people and restore faith in government by holding elected officials accountable, getting dark money out of politics, protecting our elections from foreign interference and ensuring every American’s right to vote is respected.”

“Across America we are facing unprecedented threats to the right to vote, which is the very bedrock of our democracy,” said Congressman Joe Morelle, Ranking Member of the Committee on House Administration. “The Protecting Our Democracy Act will help combat this by restoring our system of checks and balances, enhancing transparency, and better protecting our elections from foreign interference. As Ranking Member of the Committee on House Administration, I’m proud to support this important legislation and I look forward to working alongside Congressman Schiff to pass it into law.”

After the revelations of Watergate and abuses under the Nixon Administration, Congress enacted a series of landmark laws and reforms to change the way politics is conducted and to prevent a future president from abusing the power of the office. Those measures have stood the test of time – limits to prevent executive abuses, sweeping reforms to increase transparency and ethics, campaign finance reform, enhanced Congressional oversight, and more.

Last Congress, several key provisions of the Protecting Our Democracy Act were successfully passed including provisions ensuring efficient presidential transitions, additional transparency about how and when federal dollars are spent, and inspector general protections.

The Protecting Our Democracy Act builds on those reforms, based on three principles: preventing presidential abuses of power; restoring our system of checks and balances, accountability, and transparency; and protecting our elections from foreign interference. The legislation does this by:

  • Reinforcing Congress’ power to enforce subpoenas, to make government funding decisions, and to conduct oversight over the executive branch.
  • Preventing the president from granting pardons to family, friends, or themselves, or from using the office to enrich themselves, or utilizing government resources for campaign purposes.
  • Strengthening protections for federal whistleblowers who report government waste, fraud, or abuse.
  • Explicitly prohibiting political campaigns and parties from soliciting or accepting foreign assistance to an election.

The bill has been endorsed by over 50 groups and organizations including Protect Democracy, Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Public Citizen, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), 20/20 Vision, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), American Sustainable Business Network (ASBN), Blue Future, Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign Legal Center (CLC), Church World Service, Clean Elections Texas, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America (CWA), Daily Kos, Demand Progress, DemCast USA, Democracy 21, Democratic Messaging Project, End Citizens United/Let America Vote Action Fund (ECU), Fix Democracy First, Franciscan Action Network, Free Speech For People, Freedom BLOC, Get Money Out -- Maryland, Government Accountability Project, Government Information Watch, Greenpeace USA, Indivisible, Indivisible Iowa, Indivisible Santa Fe, Just Detention International, League of Conservation Voters (LCV), League of Women Voters of the United States, Local Majority, MoveOn Civic Action, National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), National Security Counselors, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, Oregonizers, People For the American Way (PFAW), People Power United, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Inc. (PEER), Rank the Vote, RepresentUs, Secure Elections Network, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Sojourners, Stand Up America, The Digital Democracy Project, The National Vote, The Workers Circle, Transparency International U.S., Tully Center for Free Speech, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Group.

It is also cosponsored in the House by Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-Ga.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), John B. Larson (D-Conn.), Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Linda T. Sanchez (D-Calif.), David Scott (D-Ga.), Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Hank Johnson, Jr. (D-Ga.), John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.), Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Ami Bera, M.D. (D-Calif.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Robin L. Kelly (D-Ill.), Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Lou Correa (D-Calif.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), Colin Allred (D-Texas), Sean Casten (D-Ill.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Andy Kim (D-N.J.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), David Trone (D-Md.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), Troy Carter (D-La.), Becca Balint, D-Vt.), Donald G. Davis (D-N.C.), Chris Deluzio (D-Pa.), Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), Kevin Mullin (D-Calif.), Andrea Salinas (D-Ore.), Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-Washington, DC).

You can find the full bill text here