USA Today Op-Ed: Nancy Pelosi and Jim McGovern: House Democrats will restore transparency, ethics, unity
In November, the American people went to the polls and sent an unmistakable message to Washington. By a historic 10 million vote margin, they asked for a Congress that would be more transparent, ethical and focused on debating and advancing good ideas no matter where they come from. They asked for a Congress that would prioritize a positive, forward-looking agenda for the people.
House Democrats are ready to deliver that agenda on Day 1. The Democratic majority means a fresh beginning after the most closed Congress in our nation’s history — a Republican Congress that shut out the voices of the American people to push backroom, speed-of-light, dark-of-night tax scams for the special interests, while enabling the worst of the Trump administration’s rampant culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence.
That is why we are proud to unveil a rules package that will usher in a new era of clean government that will honor the consensus of the American people — restoring the people’s house to the people. Transparency, ethics and unity will be the guiding light of the Democratic Congress.
First, the package will ensure transparency — providing the American people 72 hours to read bills before they receive a vote on the floor; requiring a hearing and markup process for major legislation; making it easier for bills with broad bipartisan support to go to the floor for a vote; and requiring committees to hold "Member Day" hearings, where all members can have their legislative ideas heard in public.
Second, our rules package will crack down on unethical behavior and conflicts of interest in Congress by prohibiting members from serving on corporate boards, and requiring Ethics Committee action in cases where a member is indicted or charged with criminal conduct. We will protect whistleblowers and prevent offices from using nondisclosure agreements to prohibit survivors of abuse and harassment from seeking justice.
No more tax giveaways to the ultrawealthy
Third, we will restore Congress’ constitutional role recognizing that the legislative branch is Article I, the first branch of government, coequal to and a check and balance on the executive and the judiciary. We will strengthen the representation of all Americans, and expand the voting rights of representatives elected by our more than 4.5 million fellow Americans from Washington, D.C., and the territories.
Fourth, our rules will end the budget gimmickry Republicans have used to conceal the full cost of their special interest giveaways. After Republicans’ deficit-exploding, trillion dollar handouts to the wealthiest 1 percent and big corporations, Democrats will restore budget rules to ensure that Congress returns to fiscal sanity. No longer will devious loopholes be used to balloon the deficit with more giveaways to the ultrawealthy at the expense of working families.
In addition, to achieve these ends, we will create a new Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, whose focus will include diversity, technology and leadership development. Our rules package will promote diversity and inclusiveness by creating a new diversity office to help ensure congressional staff better reflect the diversity of the American people; ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; and ensure religious expression by explicitly allowing religious headwear in the House chamber.
Our rules package will enable us to make progress from the start by passing a priority of our transformative Freshman Class: HR 1 — reducing the role of money and amplifying the people’s voice in our politics. HR 1 will allow us to clean up Congress to give confidence to the American people that we can and will deliver results for the people: lowering health costs and the price of prescription drugs; increasing paychecks while rebuilding America with green, modern infrastructure; protecting workers’ pensions; and cleaning up corruption to make Washington work for everyone.
As our country confronts the generational challenges of our time — reducing income disparity, combating the climate crisis, and strengthening our democracy — we must restore transparency, ethics, unity and bipartisanship to Congress, so that we can create progress for the people.
Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will be sworn in as speaker of the House of Representatives on Thursday. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., is the incoming chairman of the House Rules Committee. Follow them on Twitter: @NancyPelosi and @RepMcGovern