During his four years in office, President Trump exposed glaring weaknesses in our democratic institutions. Trump flouted long-standing precedents, norms, and laws. He sought to enrich himself, protect himself and his family from legal exposure, and put our country and our elections at risk through his corruption.
While Trump was the latest president to test the guardrails of our democracy, he was not the first, and he certainly will not be the last. We must pass new laws that will safeguard our democracy against abusive and corrupt leaders, and we should start with the Protecting Our Democracy Act.
The Protecting Our Democracy Act (PODA) is a comprehensive reform bill that would protect against abuses of power by the president, strengthen congressional oversight of the Executive Branch, improve accountability, limit the ability to use the office of the president for self-enrichment, and reassert Congress’ power of the purse.
What it will do
To protect against presidential abuses of power and corruption, PODA would:
- Require the president to submit materials to Congress on any self-serving presidential pardons or commutations in cases involving the president, their relatives or crimes relating to contempt of Congress or obstruction of Congress
- Ensure that no president is above the law by suspending the statute of limitations of federal crimes committed by a sitting president or vice president
- Strengthen and enforce the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution by prohibiting presidents and vice presidents from receiving “any profit, gain, or advantage” from foreign, state, or local governments
- Require congressional oversight of presidential emergency declarations which have been abused by both Democratic and Republican presidents alike
- Enforce the Hatch Act, a provision which prohibits federal employees from engaging in explicitly partisan activities, by giving the Office of Special Counsel the ability to hold violators accountable if the president does not
On restoring accountability and oversight, PODA would:
- Provide mechanisms to enforce congressional subpoenas
- Require the Attorney General to keep a log of communications between the Department of Justice and the White House and for that log to be given to the Inspector General who will be charged with reporting any improper communications to Congress
- Strengthen protections for whistleblowers and inspectors general
- Reassert Congress’ “power of the purse” and strengthen the separation of powers, preventing the president from rescinding or redirecting funds without congressional approval
On protecting elections from foreign interference, PODA would:
- Require campaigns and political committees to report certain foreign contacts to the FBI and FEC
- Increase penalties and delineate improper action by foreign nationals in their contact with political campaigns
- Prohibits campaigns from accepting opposition research, polling, and other information from foreign governments and political parties
Now is the time for us to take the necessary steps to strengthen the guardrails of our democracy. We cannot wait for the next threat.
When the Protecting Our Democracy Act was introduced in the last Congress, Republicans were not keen to support the bill because they felt it was a direct attack on President Trump. Now that Democrats are in control of the White House, House, and Senate, it would be a powerful statement to have bipartisan support to increase oversight of the Executive Branch while there is a Democrat in the White House. Support for these protections should not be partisan. We need these reforms to protect our government from abuses of power.