The 2019 Democratic Agenda Starts With Democracy

Democrats have taken control of the House, and they want to start 2019 with a bang and an ambitious legislative package that they claim will help defend the integrity of democracy.

While the bill — which they’re hoping will be the first of the legislative session, H.R. 1 — is unlikely to pass the Senate or receive the president’s approval, it’s a bold stroke designed to start a conversation.

Bills like this could be considered “statement legislation,” as they’re designed for performance purposes rather than function. In fact, some provisions of the bill might not even stand up to constitutional scrutiny — especially if it came before the now 5-4 conservative Supreme Court, which has notoriously ruled against democracy in the past. Between Citizens United and Bush v. Gore, the court doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to making sure the American people are heard.

According to Peter Overby at NPR, the bill will include a broad spectrum of policies designed to safeguard and defend democracy. High on the list is automatic voter registration, a cause that’s becoming increasingly popular — so much so that Nevada and Michigan voters both just approved automatic voter registration measures.

Democrats are also concerned about the Voting Rights Act, landmark legislation that has become more difficult to enforce thanks to a 2013 Supreme Court decision.

In addition, the bill would address redistricting, another issue that came up on a number of 2018 ballots. The 2020 Census will set off a new round of redistricting, and voting rights advocates fear this could be used to disenfranchise people. Democratic representatives want to take this power away from partisan legislatures, who have an obvious interest in the outcome, and put it into the hands of independent commissions.

Campaign finance is on the laundry list too: Democrats want to overturn Citizens United and establish checks on campaign finance, as well as enact a more robust public financing option for campaigns.

Maryland’s John Sarbanes is one of the leaders of this initiative, chairing the Democracy Reform Task Force. Sarbanes has been heavily involved with government ethics and campaign finance for the Democrats, and he clearly intends to use their House majority to respond to public calls for action on these issues.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, a favorite in the race for Speaker of the House, has made it clear that “restoring checks and balances” is a priority for the party.

While a copy of the bill isn’t available for public review yet — and it wouldn’t be formally introduced until 2019 anyway — it’s still worth keeping an eye on this topic. This legislation may set a bold political agenda for the Democrats, and as constituents, you have an opportunity to weigh in. While H.R. 1 will likely be more of an intellectual exercise than viable legislation, the issues it brings up and the proposals it makes will be important.

They could also send a cue to states exploring ways to protect elections and the democratic process within their own borders. Many of the broad proposals under discussion are quite sensible, in addition to legally defensible — as illustrated by the growing numbers of states taking up topics like automatic voter registration.

Your state legislature could take an opportunity now to safeguard the voting process in advance of 2020, ensuring that everyone has a chance to vote and that their votes are heard equally.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons


Ingrid A
Ingrid A18 days ago

thank you

Joan E
Joan E19 days ago

I know Nancy Pelosi is tough and canny, which can be useful. Her adversary McConnell is truly nasty and willing to do anything, no matter how cruel he proves he is time after time. Those two operators are too much alike for my taste. Pelosi was as cruel and dirty with the Progressives in her own party in 2016 as she is with an actual enemy. Many Progressives believe everyone deserves Medicare for All, no more bothering with insurance companies who cost us big money without adding anything useful to our healthcare plans. I think Pelosi wants the Affordable Care Act instead of Medicare for All because she wants insurance company kickbacks for her party. I believe Medicare for All is preferable. Obama campaigned on giving us Medicare for All but switched us to Obama Care (Affordable Care Act) which the Republicans were able to demonize and hurt the Democratic Party. I wouldn't be surprised if Pelosi encouraged Obama to make that disappointing switch. I believe our tax money should go for the needs of the people, like education and healthcare and retirement benefits we can depend on. when for-profit interests are involved, we get less than we need and deserve.

Frances G
Frances G20 days ago


Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E20 days ago

brian f
Yet another of your whining excuses. I'll just bet if YOU were making the same (whatever amount you currently whine about) your story would be different.
It seems to me that MANY of the Democratic candidates were FOR health care reform during the 2018 elections and now the house has power . Get out of 2016 and see what is really happening brian.
You want a speaker that isn't going to kiss trump's ample butt
Now tell us how many OTHERS are wealthy in office instead of singling out those you want to trash.

Brian F
Brian F21 days ago

Rhoberta E It's not all about the money. Although when most Americans make $30.000 or less, and live in poverty, and the leader of the Democrats Nancy Pelosi is worth 100 million dollars, it doesn't look good. The leader of the Democrats should represent the people's interest. Most people support Medicare for all, and we desperately need it in this country. How can we not criticize Nancy Pelosi for not supporting Medicare for all, when millions of people die each year because they can't afford healthcare. If you had our horrible healthcare system, I'm sure you would criticize politicians who support that oppressive system too.

Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E21 days ago

brian f
Does the C2 membership get to hear your whining for another 2 years? With you it seems to be ALL about who has money and how they made it. You are SO out of touch. You don't solve OR help anything do you !!

Brian F
Brian F21 days ago

Nancy Pelosi is an absolute disgrace and needs to be terminated. For the leader of the Democrats to be worth 100 million dollars and refuse to support Medicare for all is totally unacceptable. We need leaders like Tulsi Gabbard, Ocasio Cortez, Beto O'Rourke, or Bernie Sanders who support Medicare for all which most people support and we desperately need in this country. Nancy Pelosi used her office to get rich, and she could care less about everyone else.

hELEN hEARFIELD22 days ago


Danuta W
Danuta W23 days ago

thanks for sharing

Chad A
Chad A23 days ago

Thank you.