HR 1

HR 1 was the first bill passed by the House of Representatives after the Democrats won control in 2018, and it languished, of course, in Mitch McConnell’s “do-nothing-good” Senate. The question now is whether– with Democrats razor-thin control of that body–it can be passed.

Because passage is truly essential if we are to recover basically democratic governance.

There have been a number of articles and editorials about HR 1, but I particularly agreed with the headline on the subject from Esquire:“If We Don’t Pass HR 1, We Are F**ked As A Nation.”

The headline came from a quote by Josh Silver, who works for Represent.Us, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to ending political corruption, extremism, and gridlock.  The organization has promoted model legislation very similar to HR I since 2012.  Silver believes that, should we fail to pass these reforms,  America will continue what he calls “our decline into authoritarianism.”

“It is these problems that the bill addresses that are the root cause of the extremism and polarization that gave rise to Trump and the new sort of anti-representative form of government that the Republican Party has chosen to embrace. And I’m saying that as a truly nonpartisan guy.”

So–what would this measure accomplish?

Title one of the bill is John Lewis’s Voter Empowerment Act. Lewis introduced it–and saw it die–in five congresses in a row. It would make voting and access to the ballot box easier and more convenient by creating automatic voter registration across the country, and expanding early and absentee voting. It would also restore voting rights for felons, streamline the vote-by-mail process, and prohibit various voter-suppression tactics currently in vogue. It would also beef up election security– promoting the use of paper ballots and strengthening oversight of election-system vendors. (It also evidently backs a  grant of statehood for Washington, D.C., although not directly.)

In my favorite part of the bill, HR 1 would take on gerrymandering. It would require states to use independent commissions subject to strong conflict-of-interest rules. District maps would be approved differently, and would be more easily challenged if they are partisan and/or unrepresentative.

Another part of the bill–called the Disclose Act– would address “dark money” in politics.

The bill would institute an “Honest Ads” policy, where disclosure requirements for online political advertisements are expanded and strengthened. It would put in place a “Right to Know” policy where corporations would have to make shareholders aware of their specific political activity. It would root out participation of foreign nationals in fundraising—a foreign money ban. It would, per the name, beef up disclosure requirements for organizations engaging in political spending, including by reinforcing the Internal Revenue Service’s powers and prerogative to investigate misuse of charities to hide the source of political money.

The bill also addresses fundraising for Inaugurations, which has previously been a way for wealthy donors to curry favor with incoming administrations.

And finally, HR 1 deals with lobbying. It closes what has recently been called “the Michael Cohen exception,” where people who don’t lobby directly aren’t covered by some of the registration requirements, and it gives real enforcement power to the Office of Government Ethics. The bill bolsters ethics law in general: it requires presidents to release their tax returns, expands conflict-of-interest policy and divestment requirements, and attempts to slow the “revolving door” through which members of Congress and their staff have moved between government and the private sector, influence peddling while lobbying or serving  on corporate boards.

There are other provisions, but this overview gets at the major elements. Every citizen who has railed against vote suppression, despaired of getting rid of gerrymandering, and  cursed the outsized influence of big money in politics should lobby their Senators for its passage.


  1. Wow! No wonder Mitch McConnell has sat on the bill. How could Republicans ever win elections if they had to play by sensible rules?

  2. Yes. HR 1. The bane of the Republican party. Is it any wonder that McConnell wouldn’t even send HR 1 to committee? If this bill passes, all the strategies and modus operendi of the Republican party goes away. Why do think 28 states are trying to enact MORE voter suppression? Oh. Did I mention that those states all have Republican legislatures?

    The march toward authoritarianism is part of the “strong father” model and philosophy of the RNC and the party. The party has pushed this self-serving philosophy into the Evangelical churches so that it has become as much dogmatic as the Bible itself. The natural tendencies for humans to be selfish is exploited to its fullest with Republicans with little or no regard for the greater good. You know, that which makes modern societies work.

    The only real solution – if the Democrats don’t destroy the filibuster – is to vote the Republican party into irrelevancy. If McConnell gets to keep the filibuster, HR 1/S 1 will be moot.

  3. Which Indiana Senator should we lobby to support a bill for fairness in a democracy?

    Neither one will support this bill because it runs contrary to how they got into office. Also, ALEC doesn’t support this bill.

    The GOP doesn’t want sunlight shining on their political dealings. In fact, the DNC counts on the GOP’s objections to stop this in their tracks because they don’t want it either.

    Big Media isn’t interested in political reforms if those reforms reduce their revenues.

    In other words, the Oligarchs want to remain an Oligarchy. Any attempts to relinquish power to the people will be killed off by most of the oligarchic sycophants we call politicians.

  4. This bill needs to be passed and signed into law in the first year of the Biden Administration. Dems will never pass it in an election year and waiting until 2023 gives R’s too many opportunities to kill it, again. If there is another piece of legislation that better justifies killing off the Senate filibuster once and for all I can’t imagine what it would be. Thank you for the excellent summary and commentary.

  5. Which of Indiana’s Senators to lobby on this? Easy… Todd Young. He is up for re-election in 2022 and has spent the last five years in Washington doing what Pence did… nothing. He needs to be CONTINUALLY pushed on this issue starting now.

  6. This is for Terry Munson should he read today’s blog:

    “The lawsuit against Saudi Arabia was enabled by a 2016 law called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act that allowed for a civil suit against a foreign state if it supports international terrorism against Americans or their property. Former President Barack Obama vetoed the law, warning it could create a precedent for the U.S. or its officials to be sued in foreign courts, but Congress voted to override his veto.”

    Sometimes, the conspiracies are more accurate than the propaganda being fed by our State Department, IC, MIC, DHS, politicians, and our lapdog media. 😉

    Once again, the United States of America, the beacon of democracy, ranks #25 worldwide on the Democracy Index.

    See that the USA ranks 45th in the world for Freedom of Expression, I am projecting that our democracy ranking will continue sliding further down the global scale.

    I’m not sure I’d call that a “decline into authoritarianism.”

    Just watch to see how much control is seized up, or liberties/freedom is taken away from citizens by Biden’s administration. It’s coming…

  7. I draw your attention to an op-ed published in the Washington Post in July, written by our own Lee Hamilton and Maine’s William Cohen. They urge the House to develop a plan to judge gerrymanders and then use the House’s Constitutional authority and refuse to seat a gerrymandered delegation. A google search of “hamilton cohen gerrymander” pulls it up first. And following is a link.

  8. This isn’t really about ‘fairness,’ it’s about instituionalizing fraudulent voting via its provisions for Election Day registration and the abolition of photo ID requirements in all federal elections. It’s a blueprint for a one-party state.

  9. Our politics are very simple: the rich want to suppress voting by poor people because they will vote to raise taxes. High marginal tax rates will help make society more equitable and tat is what the rich don’t want.

  10. It should be evident by now that the one thing feared most by a politician is an angry electorate. Now I note that, if you don’t say anything, how will they know you’re angry? They might come to believe that only racists get angry.

  11. HR 1 won’t keep Big Money from corrupting our political parties and their candidates for public offices; only a comprehensive public campaign funding system will. Our elected officials will work for those who fund their campaigns. Google Gilen!

  12. It’s too bad we had such low turnout in 2020. Oh, wait, we didn’t. We had the highest turnout in what, 100 years?

    It’s probably easier to vote today than at any time in our nation’s history. The claims that there are huge swaths of people turned away from the polls by “voter suppression” tactics just isn’t backed by a lot of statistical information. Up until 2016, we did have what looked liked lower turnout, but that was a faulty analysis based on the fact that voter registration rolls have become bloated dead people and people who have moved, yet remain registered because of the difficulty under the NVRA in purging those people who are no longer voting. That has the effect of making turnout look lower. When you compare turnout to voting age population, there’s been hardly a dip in turnout in the last 20 years, and the last four years turnout is way up.

    Not to say the GOP has not attempted voter suppression, especially of late. Reducing the number of drop boxes to one per county as Texas did, is a voter suppression effort. Forcing people to go to the polls in the middle of the pandemic, before we understood how Covid-19 was transmitted and could take precautions, was an effort by Wisconsin Republicans to suppress the polls. Requiring someone to show a photo ID to vote is a legitimate security measure and has not been shown to reduce turnout.

    What I’m saying there is a middle ground. We can have safe and secure elections, while still making sure everyone who wants to vote can vote. The problem is both sides have dug in on the issue and won’t budge. For example, on the photo ID, I think there should be a debate on what types of IDs are allowed – they should be expanded. But the notion that you should be able to just show up at the poll and sign your name to vote is a bit silly. I’ve written a lot about how signatures change over time and having lay people compare signatures in a poll book to see if someone is who he or she claims to be, is a joke.

    We also have to be very careful about federalizing elections too much. One thing that thwarted Trump’s efforts this time is that he couldn’t just go to one place to overturn the election.

    I like the idea of more oversight of the private companies manufacturing and maintaining the election equipment. While Trump’s Dominion claim is unsupported, those private companies could be vulnerable to a national security threat without proper oversight.

  13. We are approaching a one-party state. The Republican Party, already en route back to the Whigdom from which it arose in 1854, has accelerated its own demise from within. Four years of Trump has been catastrophic, voter suppression tactics are running out of steam (see Georgia and Arizona), and that party’s alliance with violent and imaginary “homo saps” in a dying attempt to maintain power, having neither principles nor vision, is destined to fail.

    HR 1 is perhaps the most important piece of prospective legislation we have had since the bill that gave us the Social Security Act of 1935, though we still have the largest percentage of the poverty stricken among Western states. Perhaps after some bickering between factions within our one state party we will end wage inequality and along with enactment of Andrew Yang’s proposal for a guaranteed and universal stipend we can at last correct the social injustice of poverty since it is not only the old who are prone to hunger and lives under the bridges and on the sidewalks a la Mumbai.

    We have the resources; the issue is in their distribution. Socialism? Something for nothing? No. Capitalism with a conscience – defined and enforced by law, as in the Nordic States.

  14. Todd, when I was involved with AIS (Army Intelligence Service), our training stressed being sensitive to the clues and tells revealed by our own people — friends, buds, inferiors, superiors — that indicate they are actually working — alone or in cahoots — to undermine AIS work. The best clues and tells were about 90% found in the words they used, or chose not to use.

    So, having observed some obvious internal treacheries —
    plants, spies, double-agents, false flags, etc. — among the players in the contentious political scene of the 1960s, some of us wondered, circa 1964, why such training was not employed by the two major political parties, as well as by the several major protest organizations that were active on the streets and in the media.

    Does that interest you?

    I’ll tell you what interests me. Almost all the posters to this blog, except one, have fully disclosed who they are and whether they are actually democrats. And their posts, the words they use or don’t use, line up on the page and in straight-line logic behind what they say they are. Except one.

    That’s what interests me.

  15. …the preferences of the average American “have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically nonsignificant impact upon public policy.” Instead, lawmakers respond almost exclusively to the moneyed interests – those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns. Campaign contributions are legal bribes!

  16. I just emailed both of my Senators asking that they support passage of HR 1.
    Realistically I have no hope that they will — I live in SC.

  17. Three quick comments –

    Theresa – I love your enthusiasm, but trying to lobby Indiana Senators is a thankless task. I have sent emails on several occasions. I don’t remember which is which – one ignored me with a form email saying “message received”; the other sent an email explaining why the Senator was right and saying (not explicitly) that my opinion was irrelevant – the Senator knew best.

    Craig – I agree – I am invoking the Trump rule – if you lose, it’s clearly fraud; if you win, it was fair – therefore, Young and Braun cheated – they were elected fraudulently and must immediately resign. 8)>

    Paul – I love your consistent belief that fraud is a real danger and that any inconvenience is OK as long as it isn’t to inconvenient for you.

    I do remember the shock among my brother’s immigrant friends (Bangladeshi physicians) finding out that even though they became citizens, they couldn’t vote because registration wasn’t automatic. (My brother won the election, but missed their votes)

    I wonder, if it is acceptable to the Republicans that when my wife became a citizen, a representative from the Clerk’s office (Myla Eldridge) and the judge who administered the oath strongly urged everyone to immediately register (and I mean strongly) and that people were on-site to accept the registration forms and assist them if needed.

    When Trumpsters get angry about voter turnout, they organize and stage an armed insurrection;
    when Democrats get mad, they have finally learned to organize along the principle, “Just because something’s fixed, doesn’t mean it can’t be broken.”

    Remember, just because the blind person manages to find their way around the stumbling block doesn’t mean that you weren’t wrong to place it there to begin with.

  18. What the goal should be is to make it easy to Vote. Registration, I.D.’s, early voting, either absentee, or drop off and some type of paper trail. There should be some minimum requirements on the number of voting machines and polling places, which can accommodate people with disabilities. Federal legislation is the only way to go.

    Gerrymandering is something both sides can engage in. Given the power of statistical analysis, districts could be drawn by A.I. to reflect certain parameters.

    Finally, since only humans can vote, only humans should be able to contribute to elections. PACs and Super PACs should have no place in bundling of money. The last election cycle here in IN 05 had one negative ad after another attacking the opposition.

  19. When I first saw on-line the Tea Party in Florida spreading the meme that democracy was bad I knew that the republic was in trouble. That was a decade ago. It has continued its viral infection among those addicted to their own entitlement to power.

    It seems that this is the only time to make HR1 into a desperately needed law. I hope that Schummer is up to it.

  20. Larry – so Party over….all?? Who is blaming everyone else as “the other”?

    Sorry y’all who want to write/call your GOP reps/senators. There is ample research that they ignore it all because their districts are gerrymandered so they always win. So much for any pretense of serving all their customers…

  21. As Todd points out, regarding the Indiana senators, neither of which would support the bill, here in Fl. neither of mine would either. When I sign a petition, on-line, that is about any sort of humane approach to politics, or social issues, I know they will pay it no heed. I just hope it rankles them a bit.
    On another note, APPARENTLY, Ivanka is considering a run against Rubio, here, and watching that might be a lot of fun, in 2022!

  22. What does it mean when an Indiana Senator or Representative refuses to entertain one of our liberal complaints, or vote for one of our progressive bills?

    From what I read here, there is apparently only one thing it means: big money has the Senator and Representative in their pocket and to hell with what constituents want.

    So, what about the fear elected officials have of the Trumpite voting block? Seems to me that Congressional Members are very sensitive to the demands of the Trumpite mobs. And it proves to me that elected officials are perfectly capable of serving the needs of the constituency they identify as theirs — the one that can kick them out of office in the next election.

    Which raises the question: Why doesn’t the democratic voting base wield similar power to influence its legislators?

    Or maybe it does and we are thrown off the truth of it when republican legislators snub our opinions.

  23. Wow?

    I’m sorry I missed the thread this morning!

    I was doing the food bank run for a lot of the folks in the area who don’t have transportation. That really takes up a lot of time.

    A lot of fire and brimstone preaching today, might have been in my wheelhouse, LOL, hopefully I’ll catch up tomorrow.

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