House Democrats Seek to Curb Presidential Powers

September 24, 2020 Updated: September 24, 2020

House Democrats have announced a proposal that, broadly, seeks to bolster congressional power with respect to the executive branch of the government, and aims to “prevent future presidential abuses, restore our system of checks and balances, strengthen accountability and transparency, and protect our elections.”

The sweeping legislation, called the Protecting Our Democracy Act (pdf), includes measures to restrict presidential pardon power, enhance Congress’s enforcement authority with respect to members of the executive branch, tighten financial disclosure requirements related to gifts or profits that public servants receive while in office, and reinforce Congress’s ability to enforce subpoenas.

Other proposals include stronger congressional oversight of presidential emergency declarations, measures to strengthen Congress’s power of the purse, greater protections for whistleblowers, and measures to reduce political appointments in executive agencies by raising qualification requirements in hiring and imposing tenure caps on acting heads of agencies to no more than 120 days.

The Democrats introducing the legislation, led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee chairman who led the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, said in a statement that the bill was spurred by what they called the president’s “lawless” actions.

“Our democracy is not self-effectuating—it takes work and a commitment to guard it against those who would undermine it, whether foreign or domestic. It is time for Congress to strengthen the bedrock of our democracy and ensure our laws are strong enough to withstand a lawless president,” the group stated.

Calling it a “once-in-a-generation moment,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in announcing the initiative on Capitol Hill, told reporters that “Congress has a sacred obligation for the people to defend the rule of law and restore accountability and basic ethics to the government. And that is exactly what we’re doing” with this package.

“It is sad that the president’s actions have made this legislation necessary,” she added. “As with other things, he gives us no choice.”

Democrats have long accused Trump of abusing his power, including when he took executive action to appropriate Pentagon funding to help build a wall at the U.S.–Mexican border, or when the administration ignored congressional subpoenas.

The measure is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate if taken up before the Nov. 3 election.

The White House didn’t immediately reply to a request by The Epoch Times for comment about the measure or the abuse of power allegations made by Democrats in their accompanying statement.

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