House majority backs massive Democratic ethics and election law overhaul

Image: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), speaks during a weekly press conf
Pelosi called the vote a "historic, pivotal day," despite the fact that the measure faces a dead-end in the GOP-controlled Senate. Copyright Mandel Ngan AFP - Getty Images file
By Rebecca Shabad with NBC News Politics
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The massive Democratic package would also require the release of presidential tax returns.


WASHINGTON — A House majority on Friday voted to pass the top Democratic legislative priority: a massive bill that would expand voting access and revamp ethics regulations, including the tax documents presidential candidates are required to release.

The vote capped off a tumultuous week on Capitol Hill, dominated by the party's response to comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., that some lawmakers and outside groups considered anti-Semitic.

"H.R. 1 restores the people's faith that government works for the public's interests, the people's interests — not the special interests," Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said at a press conference ahead of the vote on the steps of the Capitol, flanked by members of the House Democratic caucus.

Pelosi called the vote a "historic, pivotal day," despite the fact that the measure faces a dead-end in the GOP-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has blasted it as an attempted Democratic "power grab."

The 444-page bill was the first priority of the House Democratic agenda, which includes efforts to to lower the cost of prescription drugs and craft an infrastructure package.

To make it easier to vote, the new bill proposes a range of reforms such as requiring that states institute automatic voter registration for eligible unregistered citizens and requiring at least 15 days of early voting across the country. It would also prohibit voter roll purges and ensure that people who have completed felony sentences can vote again.

It would target so-called "dark money" in politics by requiring Super PACs, 501(c)4 nonprofit groups and other organizations spending money in elections to disclose donors who contribute more than $10,000. It would also require digital platforms to maintain a public database of political ad buy requests of more than $500.

The Democratic proposal would also expand a conflict of interest law and divestment requirements for public officials. The bill would require the president to disclose his or her tax returns, and it would prevent members of Congress from serving on corporate boards, among other things.

Republicans have railed against the measure, with McConnell saying earlier this week on the Senate floor that "Washington Democrats want a tighter grip on political debate and the operation of elections, nationwide." The Senate is not expected to take up the bill.

"Their solution amounts to a hostile one-sided takeover of the electoral process without the input of both parties. In the Democrats' view, our federalist system where state laws evolve to address unique challenges is old-fashioned and no longer to their liking," McConnell said. "Now, it's time for sweeping new decrees from Washington D.C. What each state has found works best for them — to register voters, or to maintain voter rolls — all that is now supposed to yield to what Washington Democrats want."

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