Floor Speech on The For The People Act
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support H.R. 1, The For The People Act. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
I thank the gentlewoman for yielding and join her in her beautiful acknowledgement of the passing of Vernon Jordan. I also commend her for her great leadership in honoring our Constitution with this For The People legislation. I’m fond of saying of Chairwoman Lofgren, that she has so much experience, so much knowledge, such deep values about our Constitution and about our electoral system and how they are connected. Thank you, Madam Chair, for your tremendous leadership.
And I also thank John Sarbanes for his long-term dedication to this For The People legislation so that we can have elections that enable people to participate more fully. That's what this is all about. Mr. Sarbanes chaired the [Democracy] Reform Task Force. He is the godfather of this bill. His determination, his deliberation and dedication to our democracy have brought to us this important moment for the American people.
And I’m especially pleased that this moment is happening in March, Women's History Month, because I’m very fond of saying, if we reduce the role of money in politics and increase the level of decency and civility, we will be able to elect many more women, many more people of color, many more young people into elective office. But I’m absolutely certain of that in terms of women. And this legislation does just that. ‘We, The People,’ the first words of the Preamble to the Constitution. How appropriate that that is what this legislation is called.
I come to this conversation not just as Speaker of the House, but as a person who, for years, was a leader in the California Democratic Party. And our purpose was to remove obstacles of participation, obstacles of participation for Democrats or Republicans. That's what the law requires, that was the right thing to do. Whether it was in registration or getting out the vote, we had to be non-partisan. And that's what this legislation does.
It's very interesting in the rules of the House, that we can hear people misrepresent the facts, but if we call them on it, our words are taken down for mistrusting the integrity of Members. But let's be very clear. There is no public funding use of taxpayer money for Congressional races in this legislation. No matter what you hear someone else said. And there will be an amendment on the Floor.
And speaking of amendments, there are 56 amendments. The list, just listing them takes pages and pages and pages, so this will take a couple of days to deal with. So, this idea that we don't have a full discussion and full amendment process – let's not talk about process. Let's talk about the policy and what we hope to achieve.
The first 300 pages of this bill were written by John Lewis to eliminate voter suppression, which has become rampant in our country. How do we say to our Founders, we salute you for what you have done, and we are going to do everything in our power to make sure we suppress the vote? It's so inconsistent. Three hundred pages written by John Lewis to eliminate the voter suppression that is rampant and current. Now, what we have seen, even just in recent days, a torrent of pieces of legislation to reduce voter participation. So, that's what we want to do.
Another aspect of this that distorts our democracy is the partisan gerrymandering. And that's why I salute the distinguished Madam Chair for her leadership for a long time now in putting forth redistricting by way of commission. The people should choose their politicians. Politicians should not be choosing their voters by this political gerrymandering, and the legislation does that.
Part of voter suppression that people don't always recognize is the suffocation of the airwaves of big, dark, special interest money. And one aspect of this bill that has such popular appeal is the fact that people will realize if we reduce the role of big, dark money in politics, we increase the voice – voices of the people. We'll have a better chance to preserve our planet if big, dark money, special interest money is not weighing in. We have a better chance of protecting our children from gun violence with background check legislation if big, dark money, in terms of gun lobbies, is not weighing in. We have a chance to reduce the cost of health care. We have a chance to increase the paychecks. The list goes on. Big, dark money has been an obstacle to progress for America's working families, suppressing the ability of people to collective – bargain collectively, suppressing the rights of workers in our country.
So, again, this is, as Mr. Sarbanes says, this caffeinates all the other issues. It gives people confidence that it really can happen, that we really can pass legislation that is not dominated, and the debate of it not suffocated, the airwaves suffocated by big, dark money. And, of course, we have to look at what's happening in terms of misinformation in social media and the rest. And what we want to do is clear the air, clear the air of that big, dark money, clear the air of political gerrymandering and clear the air of the voter suppression that is out there.
Just last night, the Georgia House passed a draconian new voter restriction bill, which would end weekend voting, slash the number of mail ballot drop boxes, impose restrictive voter ID for mail ballots, among other actions. They know that their issues are losers with the American people when they oppose some of the issues that are very popular in the public domain. They know that big money and voter suppression is their path to victory and that's why they're engaged in this.
These voter suppression tactics are fundamentally discriminatory. In 2018, 70 percent of Georgia voters purged from the rolls were African American. And nationwide, counties with larger minority populations have fewer polling places and poll workers per voter. And, in fact, one in thirteen Black Americans cannot vote due to disenfranchisement laws nationwide. We must ensure that all voters have a voice in their democracy. Particularly in light of many grave challenges that our nation faces today. Strong, clean, ethical leadership For The People is needed to tackle today's crises, ranging from the pandemic and economic crisis, to the national reckoning on racial equality and justice, and as I mentioned earlier, the surging climate crisis.
The For The People Act will meet this moment – again, the moment – restoring the public's trust in government, and re-empowering our leaders to fight in the people's interest, not the special interest. It will combat big, dark money in politics, taking on the power of special interests, forcing disclosure, forcing disclosure, reining in the lobbyist influence and empowering, empowering small donors.
I do believe that one of the most un-democratic acts of the Supreme Court of the United States in its history was the citizens – so-called Citizens United decision. How could the Justices of the Supreme Court ever have passed – made such a decision? I don't know if they examined their conscience in light of what has happened since then with big, dark money weighing in. And they gave very little opportunity – usually, when the Court makes a decision, Congress can act, change the law, change the perspective, make it more Constitutional, whatever the question is. But not with Citizens United. They went all out, closed every window to any opportunity to make change in the House of Representatives, except one: disclosure. Disclosure. They said, ‘OK, you can pass a law that says you must disclose.’
When this law passed – when this decision was made, we tried to have the [DISCLOSE] Act. We had 59 votes in the Senate, not 60, so we couldn't pass it. Because the Republicans in the Senate said, no, we cannot insist on disclosure. When that happened, the Chamber of Commerce, it was reported that they said, oh, if we had to disclose, our Members would not be giving – of their chamber – would not be giving in big amounts because they didn't want the public, their employees, their customers, their clients to know how much big money they were spending to suppress the vote and the discussion in our country. So, the Republicans supported low disclosure. The money flowed and continues to flow. It must be stopped.
Now, it would take a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and I think we should strive for that. However, in the meantime, it will take an act of Congress to say, ‘You're proud of who you're supporting in big, dark money ways? Disclose it.’ Let's have disclosure. The public has a right to know. Your employees have a right to know, your customers, your community has a right to know how you are weighing in against their interests. Against clean air for their children to breathe, clean safety in terms of water, safety in their neighborhood, in terms of gun violence protection, safety in terms of preserving the planet, safety in terms of issues that relate to health. The list goes on and on. There is a direct connection between the suppression of the vote, the suffocation of the airwaves with big, dark money, and the health and well-being of the American people.
So, this bill will combat big, dark money in politics, as I said. It will expand voting rights. It will ensure secure and accurate elections, guarding elections from foreign interference. Let me say that again. Why would the Republicans oppose guarding the elections from foreign interference? This is one of the most popular aspects of this legislation in the public. Again, For The People, it will hold elected officials accountable, establishing tougher ethics, tougher ethics and ending conflicts of interest rules for government, all government – establishing conflict of interest rules for all government officials to ensure that public officials are working for the public.
The For The People Act is unifying, supported by a majorities of American people across the country, Democrats, Republicans, Independents. More than 170 civil rights groups, labor, environmental, faith-based, consumer protection and gun safety groups, all of whom know this legislation is urgently needed. Two examples. Stacy Abrams of Fair Fight, wrote yesterday, ‘The For The People Act understands the facets of free and fair elections, mitigating voter suppression, advancing a fair redistricting process and empowering small donor – dollar donors to have a more prominent role in our elections. Together, this comprehensive bill signals a restoration of our nation's commitment to the most durable democratic republic.’ Together, I’ll say it again, ‘this comprehensive bill signals a restoration of our nation's commitment to the world’s most durable democratic republic,’ the United States of America.
Passing and enacting H.R. 1 will put the American people back in charge of the republic, paving the way for transformative progress in terms of policy for our country, for the future, for our children. With this legislation, we can Build Back Better For The People, advancing justice, opportunity and progress for families in every zip code.
To restore our democracy and to advance progress For The People, I urge a strong vote for H.R. 1, For The People Act, and express my appreciation to Madam Chair Zoe Lofgren and John Sarbanes and so many others, Mondaire Jones, speaking for the Freshman class and what it means for young people to come into the process not to be blocked by big, dark money and foreign influence in our elections. Vote against foreign influence in our elections. Vote for H.R. 1. With that, Madam Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.