Fixing gov’t seems simple in H.R. 1

The idealist in me regularly engages in internal combat with the pragmatist.

It can be ugly.

Changing the world and making our country better by taking on the big issues is often seen as the silly endeavor of dreamers, and when you review Washington politics, idealism is almost never an option.

So then I looked closely at H.R. 1, a sprawling 571-page pipe dream of proposals from the newly elected Democrats in the House of Representatives, and I saw hope.

In Washington of all places.

Here was a proposal that took a hammer to many of Washington’s worst habits.

The more I looked at the bill, the more I wondered why both parties weren’t on board.

But of course, they are not.

The Washington Post editorial board said the legislation was “dead on arrival” in the Republican-controlled Senate, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling it a “power grab” because it offered up solutions that would allow more people to vote.

McConnell’s logic is lost on me.

H.R. 1 — titled more dramatically the “For the People Act” — was introduced by Democrats on Jan. 4, proposing solutions to voting, political money, redistricting and ethics.

It demands that presidents and vice presidents release their tax returns and have ethics plans in place for their transition teams, demands financial disclosure within 30 days of taking office and demands that they act as if they are covered by the conflict of interest law.

This is simple stuff that goes to the heart of corruption at the highest levels of government. Maybe, with these types of regulations in place, there would not be the need for another special prosecutor anytime soon.

It bans House members from serving on corporate boards — remember Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., who was indicted for insider trading last year — while outlawing House members from using taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment claims. They can do that right now, which is reprehensible.

Who could possibly be against any of these measures?

Our Rep. Elise Stefanik has previously called for bipartisan legislation to address just these types of problems. Here is a golden opportunity for her.

H.R. 1 asks for the Supreme Court to have a code of ethics — probably long overdue — and for laws regulating foreign and domestic lobbying to be expanded.

It reaches deep into states’ rights and suggests that independent panels redistrict congressional districts instead of partisan state legislatures.

These are simple, honest solutions.

It addresses getting the money out of politics and specifically addresses how to keep foreign money out of our elections.

It calls for digital companies like Facebook and Google to set up public databases that would track political ad purchase requests of $500 or more while creating measures to block ad buys by foreign companies.

These are needed measures to protect our republic.

It calls for a new matching fund program to support House candidates who agree to raise only small-dollar contributions. It would be the first step in taking the money out of politics and ending the constant fundraising by our representatives.

It would give each voter the same say as each corporation.

H.R. 1 calls for making voter registration easier by allowing voters to vote online, and having same-day voter registration and at least 15 days of early voting. And voters could not be taken off the rolls just because they neglected to vote for a number of years.

I’m just hitting the highlights.

But I’m struggling to find something, anything that is a deal-breaker.

What is so terrible about H.R. 1?

I’m not seeing it.

It won’t change Washington overnight, but it is a start.

The idealist in me wants to win this one badly.

For once.

I searched online, “Why do Republicans oppose H.R. 1?”

I found nothing.

Ken Tingley is editor of The Post-Star in Glens Falls.


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