Pelosi Floor Speech Advocating for H.R. 1, The For The People Act
And, I want to salute our colleague from Maryland, Congressman John Sarbanes, for being a relentless and persistent advocate for honoring the Constitution of the United States and giving people confidence their voice and their vote count as much as anyone’s in this country.
That's what H.R. 1 is about: giving people confidence that we can do what we say without the influence of big, dark, special interest money weighing in on the process.
Our Constitution, Mr. Speaker, as you know, begins, ‘We the People’ – a beautiful statement of purpose for our nation. ‘We the People.’ They envisioned – our Founders – envisioned a government that would work for the people – serving the people's interests, fighting for their aspirations, hopes and dreams.
We have a responsibility to honor that vision of our Founders. Honoring our oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Honoring the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform for the sacrifices that they make for our freedom and freedom throughout the world. And worthy of the aspirations of our children.
We can only do this if we have a government that is committed to transparency, to as much bipartisanship as possible and to being unifying for our country.
In the election, the American people voted for just that. They voted for a Congress that would restore transparency, bipartisanship and unity – be unifying in Washington, D.C., so that the government would be, again I can’t say it enough, work for the people.
On day one, reflecting the priorities of our just outstanding Freshman Class, our new Democratic Majority honored the people's trust by introducing H.R. 1, the For the People Act.
Again, let me salute John Sarbanes, the Chair of our Democracy Reform Task Force, who is the godfather of this bill.
Today, we are proud to be bringing this transformative legislation to the Floor of the House: H.R. 1. And it is H.R. 1 because it is of primary importance, restores the people's faith that government will work for the people and not the special interests.
We are ending the dominance of big, dark, special interest money in politics. We are ensuring clean, fair elections with Congressman John Lewis, our hero, with his Voter Empowerment Act to increase access to the ballot box.
Democrats or Republicans, or people who don’t – or Independent, people who do not register as a party, should want everyone to be able to vote without obstacles. This legislation will remove obstacles to participation, whether they’re obstacles of closing polling places in certain neighborhoods, obstacles of reducing hours that those polling places are open, reducing the number of days for early voting and the rest; it will reduce those obstacles.
We also are protecting the sacred right to vote through Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s H.R. 4, which is an offspring of this legislation: the Voting Rights Advancement Act, to secure, again, and restore the Voting Rights Act. It is part of H.R. 1, but it will be taken up separately because of the need to establish the constitutional basis in an ironclad way as we go forward.
And, I'm so pleased, Madam Chair, and I thank you and the House Administration – your committee – reinstating the House Administration Subcommittee on Elections led by Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, which began its out-of-Washington hearings in Brownsville, Texas.
I was just in Texas. People were delighted that your subcommittee came there – that Congresswoman, Chairwoman Fudge’s committee came there to hear the stories of voter suppression that exist throughout the country. Especially among people who may have a last name that may sound foreign to some and questionable therefore, to them, but who are American citizens eligible to vote.
And we are cleaning up corruption and ensuring that public officials again work for the people's interests. You can't say it enough. We must pass this legislation so we can break the grip of special interests.
You know we talk about obstacles to participation and suppression of the vote, and we talk about what we talked about earlier, whether it's voting – number of polling places, number of hours, number of days, degree of identification that's required in some areas or more so than in others, different surnames and the rest – but, one of the biggest suppressors of the vote is the suffocation of the airwaves by big, dark, special interest money.
There are some people in this country, I hope none of them in this body, but there are some people in this country who think that the only way to win an election is to suppress the vote – one way or another. And, by bombarding and suffocating the airwaves with information that is not factual, by disrupting elections by putting out messages in the social media that are misleading, these – the resources that make all of this possible are as much a voter suppressor than anything you can name.
So that is why, when we put forth our For the People agenda: one, lower the cost of health care costs by reducing the cost of prescription drugs. Secondly, to increase paychecks. Lower health care costs, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green way.
People have confidence that we could do that because H.R. 1, which was essential to our For the People agenda, would, again, diminish the role of big, special interest money and increasing the voice of every person in our country, including increase the impact of small donor participation in elections.
When we put power back in the hands of the American people, as this legislation does, we can make much more progress on hard issues facing our nation. And the American people know that.
It removes a great deal of skepticism that they have in politics and government. It instills confidence that their voice will be heard, that their cause will be addressed, and that their interest will be served. Again, lowering health care costs by reducing the cost of prescription drugs, people's voices will be heard – a big issue in the election. Increasing paychecks by building infrastructure of America, in a bold, green, modern way. Safeguarding consumer protections, workers' rights, the rights of the LGBTQ community and addressing the concerns of our beautiful Dreamers – in legislation that we'll take up, launch next week.
Protecting clean air, clean water, confronting the climate crisis, and so much more. That has been, and let me add – a bill that we passed last week, which was historic in the House, finally passing a bill for commonsense background checks for gun violence prevention. Again, defying the big money in that arena.
There should be nothing partisan or political about empowering the American people and making sure that government works for them.
Our Founders provided a vision for our country. They wrote a Constitution making us the freest people in the world, a model for the rest of the world. That enabled people – thank God they made it amendable, so that we could expand power and voting rights and the rest.
And what's exciting about this Congress, which has over 100 women in it for the first time, is that in the course of this Congress, we will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of women having the right to vote. But the right to vote must be accompanied by removing obstacles to that participation. And that is what we are doing today.
And how do we answer our Founders, if one day we are meeting them in the next life? How do we say to them, I did everything in my power to suppress the vote? Or do we say, honoring your vision, we removed every obstacle for those who are legitimately eligible to vote to do so, and to have their vote counted as cast.
To honor the oath we take and to honor the people's trust, I strongly urge a bipartisan vote for this bill: For the People.
And I yield back the balance of my time.