tv House Democrats News Conference on Legislative Agenda CSPAN January 5, 2019 12:10am-12:40am EST
as -- speaker pelosi: what a difference an election makes, more members, more press. good morning, everyone. thank you for being here. i'm honored to be here with some of the members of the house democratic caucus and some of the leadership of committees of jurisdiction to deal with this very important issue of integrity in government. especially want to acknowledge the work and leadership of congressman john sarbanes over the years. over the years. he developed an initiative that gathered steam across the country on 100 candidates across the country signed a letter saying they wanted h.r. 1 to be one of the first orders of business of this new congress. thank you. we're joined by gerry nadler, congresswoman zoe lofgren, chair
of house committee. congressman elijah cummings from government oversight and reform. john sarbanes. the chair of the democracy reform task force. congressman john lewis, our hero on all subjects. and congressman david price who has been a champion on this for decades. and congresswoman escobar, a member of the freshman class who will represent the views of that very transformative, diverse, beautiful, energetic freshman class that is energizing the congress. yesterday we made history. again swearing-in is transformative. freshmen class, when they took the oath they made a difference. today guided by our new members and the american people that they represent, that we all represent, we're introducing h.r. 1 to hold legislation to clean up corruption and restore
integrity to government. [applause] we put power back into the hands of the people. what's really important about this because in our for the people agenda we talked about lowering health care costs, by lowering prescription drug prices, and protecting people with pre-existing conditions. we talked about lowering -- increasing, lowering health care costs, increase being paychecks, -- increasing paychecks by building green infrastructure of america from sea to shining sea. and we gave people confident -- we gave people confidence that this could happen in a way was in the people's interest not in special interests because of h.r. 1. it's important for what it does. it's important for the confidence it gives people that their voices and their concerns are heard. that restoring the people's faith in government works is our
agenda. we're thrilled that so many champions of democracy are here in this room representing organizations that fought this fight for such a long time. you'll hear about it, but it has many features. one of them is about setting us up for the voting rights act , which will not be a part of the first, as we go forward, because we have to build the constitutional record to do that. but we will do that in a short order and then we'll have the complete h.r. 1 passed by the house of representatives with the knowledge, transparency that the american people will know that this is an option that the house has given the senate of the united states and the president of the united states are to take action in support of the american people.
for the people. with that i'm very pleased to yield to the chair of our task force, our champion, integrity and government, congressman john sarbanes. [applause] mr. sarbanes: good morning, everybody. thank you, speaker pelosi. thank you for your leadership and your commitment to this agenda of giving the american people their voice back. last year when candidates were out campaigning to their constituents, new candidates and candidates were running for re-election, we heard loud and clear from the american people that they feel left out and locked out too often from their own democracy. that they want us to fight the culture of corruption. they want us to clean up washington. fix the system. and give them their voice back. they want to be able to get to the ballot box without having to run an obstacle course. they want it to be easy and not hard to register and vote in america.
and h.r. 1 will address that concern. they want to make sure that when people come to washington to serve, whether it's in the legislative branch or the executive branch, or member of the judiciary, they behave themselves. they abide by ethics. they have integrity. that they are open and transparent. so h.r. 1 addresses ethical responsibility. and finally, they kept saying to us, over and over and over again, don't get tangled up in the money. we don't want special interest and people who write big checks to govern our democracy, to determine what the legislative calendar's going to look like. we want the people's priorities to be reflected. so we have to fight back against special interests and big money. and h.r. 1 does that. we carried a message of reform, of fighting corruption, of cleaning up washington. we made a promise to the american people.
the new members who have come made that promise and made it clear they wanted this to be the first order of business. so h.r. 1 is delivering on that promise back to the american people. and telling them in return for you giving us the gavel, we're going to do everything we can, every single day, to give you your democracy back and make sure this truly is a government of, by, and for the people. thank you for being here today. [applause] it's my privilege someone who has been a fighter for democracy, he talks about fighting for the soul of our democracy every single day, the new chairman of the oversight and government reform committee, elijah cummings. mr. cummings: thank you. thank you, john. i want to thank you for putting your blood, sweat, and tears in this effort. you have been simply spectacular. i want to thank speaker pelosi,
majority leader hoyer for your leadership with regard to this historic package. the midterm elections were monumental and historic. the american people gave congress a mandate to finally start conducting credible oversight and enacting reforms. over the last two years, president trump set the tone from the top in his administration that behaving ethically and complying with the law is optional. ladies and gentlemen, i stopped by here to simply say we're better than that. we're better than that. [applause] it cannot be optional. we have seen gross abuses from agency heads such as former e.p.a. administrator scott pruitt. and former interior secretary
ryan zinke. this is why we're introducing the for the people act. this bill includes a number of reforms that will strengthen our ability for the executive branch including the president. here is what we're focusing on in our oversight committee. requiring the president to disclose his financial interests as soon as he takes office. or she takes office. prohibiting executive branch officials from lobbying their own agencies for two years after they leave. prohibiting procurement officers from going to work for companies they awarded contracts to for at least two years after they leave. strengthening the government's ethics watchdog, the office of government ethics, and making it more independent.
making any waivers, any waivers from ethics rules available to the american people. finally, requiring senior government officials to disclose political contributions they receive before joining the government. i'm anxiously looking forward to the hearings on h.r. 1. now it gives me great honor and great privilege to introduce my great colleague and just a fighter for all of these kinds of issues, the distinguished chairman, newly minted chairman of the judiciary committee, gerry nadler. [applause] mr. nadler: thank you very much. let me begin by thanking john sarbanes for his leadership role over a long period of time in pulling together this democracy agenda and gathering support for it. and the new leadership of the
house, speaker pelosi and majority leader hoyer who have been great supporters and ralliers for this kind of agenda for a long time. i am proud to be joining my colleagues today to unveil h.r. 1, legislation to restore democracy and deliver for the american people. the overwhelming influence of money and special interests is a cancer in our democracy that must be removed. otherwise we risk evolving into an oligarchy. like so many other republics before us. indeed, many americans already believe that their elected leaders do not care about them and that office holders care only about raising money and prioritizing the interests of the moneyed class. they believe that their participation, their voices cannot count against the power of big money and recent experience shows they are often right. for example, most americans, including most gun owners, support reasonable firearms regulation. heartbreakingly we continue to
hear about mass shootings, yet after each tragedy the republican-controlled congress refused to act. even without such high profile incidents it remains true that more than 33,000 americans lose their lives to gun violence every year. and the gun related murder rate in the united states is 25 times higher than in 22 other comparably high income countries. despite near universal support from the american republic, the republican congress did not even have a hearing on the issue, much less pass legislation because of disproportionate political influence of the national rifle association and the big givers associated with it. in a similar vein, americans overwhelmingly support lowering prescription drug prices. yet the pharmaceutical industry and its army of lobbyists have thus far successfully managed to stifle any real reform. sadly, this pattern repeats itself in policy area after policy area. from gutting protection that is
ensure clean air and clean water, to those that ensure the integrity of our financial system. the very real danger now is that special interests will be able to use vast sums of concentrated wealth to further dictate policy outcomes at odds with the american people's wishes. without h.r. 1, our democracy will find itself more and more at the mercy of large moneyed interests. if we do not pass this critical legislation, the history books may eventually say that like the roman republic, the united states had a good 200 to 250-year run at democracy, and degenerated into an oligarchy like all the rest. we must not let that happen. we must pass this legislation so that government of the people remains of the people. and now i'm proud to introduce one of the people who has
perhaps had the greatest role in making sure that government is of, by, and for the people in the last century, great moral leader and great legislative leader, representative john lewis. [applause] mr. lewis: thank you, mr. chairman, for those kind words of introduction. thank you, john, for not giving up. for not giving in. for keeping the faith. and keeping your eyes on the prize. [applause] the last two years have made it clear there are thousands and millions of dollars drowning out the voice of the people of this
country. in the last election the people spoke and they spoke with a mighty voice and they will continue to speak. they used the power for the vote to create a more diverse, more progressive, more outspoken house than ever before. [applause] i said on many occasions that the vote is the most powerful , nonviolent instrument or transformation we have in our democracy. we have in a democratic society. and that the foundation of our system it must be strengthened and preserved. there are forces trying to make it harder and more difficult for people to participate. and we must drown out these voices.
we must strengthen our democracy. democrats want to put power back into the hearts of the people. that is why we have introduced h.r. 1. the for the people act make automatic registration a mandate, nationwide, not just in states, or counties, but nationwide. we must get there and we will get there as democrats. we will get there as citizens for this great country. restore voting rights to felons who pay their debt to society. i truly believe deep in my heart and my soul the way votes were not counted and purged in georgia and florida and other states changed the outcome of the last election.
that must never happen again in our sight. never again. [applause] we will make it the leader and -- we will make it illegal and also offer federal resources to secure the vote in state and localities around our country. with this bill, it is in keeping with the voting rights act of 1965. some of us gave a little blood on a bridge. we don't want to give any more blood, but we have our votes and we must use our votes as a powerful instrument to change things. with this bill, we demonstrate that this house is for the people and we will choose the side of equality and justice over special interests every time. that's the right thing to do and
we will do it. [applause] now it is my great pleasure to present a fighter, a warrior, the gentleman from the great state of california, member of the judiciary committee representative lofgren. [applause] ms. lofgren: first, i want to reiterate the thanks that we all have for representive sarbanes for pressing forward, never giving up, and also for our freshmen class for responding and saying this has to be a priority. i look out in this audience i see people who have been working for fred, others who have been working for reform for decades and we're on the cusp of getting some enormously important things done.
i want to talk a little bit about partisan redistricting. across the united states we can see majorities of voters voting for one party but it doesn't reflect the actual result in the end. because of partisan redistricting. we have had bills to require nonpartisan redistricting, really modeled after the california effort for some years. i'm not the only person who worked on it. i see alan lowenthal is here and julia brownley who had bills and john cantor, we made these efforts. now we're in a position to actually move this forward. because of these partisan districts, politicians are actually choosing their voters instead of voters choosing their politicians.
that has to stop. we have this bill that will use the voting rights act principles as the guide for how these districts need to be drawn, but there will be no opportunity for the citizens to know the party registration in the areas they are districting to know where the incumbents live. it's just going to be by the book fair districts so that voters have a fair chance to elect the congress of their choice. it's my hope that these commissions that will fully reflect the diversity of their state and function a fully transparent, nonpartisan manner will completely transform politics in the united states. i want it done by the time we have the next congressional elections. [applause] with that the for the people act will deliver the change with campaign finance reform,
transparency, voting rights, and redistricting reform, but we have someone here who has worked on so many of these items for so many years, not only as a member of congress, but as a distinguished professor of political science. i would like to introduce him next, representative david price. [applause] mr. price: thank you. i want to thank my colleagues and all of you for your interest in what we're undertaking. it is a tremendous undertaking as my colleagues have said. what we're talking about here is basic to everything else we need to do. political reform, far-reaching, comprehensive political reform. and i as a representative from north carolina have a special reason. we are ground zero on some of these issues. a special reason to understand
how important this is. this is a once in a generation blueprint for reforming our democratic system, diminishing the influence of big money in american politics, special interests, and restoring power to our people. it represents the commitment of the house democratic caucus to deliver on the promises we made to restore integrity and accountability and transparency to our democracy. i have spent the better part of my clear in congress on the issues addressing this bill, especially the campaign finance system that allows moneyed interests to dominate and corrupt our politics. the people act will dramatically change that. it will transform the process of disclosure, making it a real process that real people can understand. it will help us shine a light on dark money in politics t will modernize our presidential public finance system. that probably ranks as the most successful reform effort of modern times. it worked for 30 years, past
watergate. it does need to be modernized. that's included in this bill. it would establish new public matching system also for congressional races that would empower small donors. we plan to bolster limits on campaign spending by cracking down on improper super p.a.c.s. super p.a.c.s all too often affiliated behind the scenes. with political campaigns. and we intend to expand my original stand by your ad provisions, that's with apologies to tammy wynette, for anybody who remembers, stand by your ad. we want to expand those provisions and require corporations and other groups to disclose their top funders. that should include of course tv ads, but also online paid ads, robocalls and so forth. these reforms will and powder american voters.
-- empower american voters. they are going to encourage more diverse candidates to run for office and help break the stranglehold that big donors have on american politics. we're proud to deliver on our promise to the american people. we're proud to roll this many -- this comprehensive package out as h.r. 1. and we fully intend to do everything in our power to return power to the american people. with that, i turn to one of our outstanding new members who has just been through a campaign and can testify as to some of the rigors and some of the changes that need to be made, very, very convincingly, representative escobar. [applause] ms. escobar: good morning, everyone. i want to thank speaker pelosi and house majority leader steny hoyer for their leadership. my name is escobar, from the -- my name is ron at the -- my name is for monica escobar, from the great safe-secure u.s. mexico border, el paso, texas. i want to thank congressman sarbanes for the incredible privilege of allowing us as new
members to be able to sign on to such a transformative piece of legislation. and i'm very proud to have signed on today. you will see in this group, this group of heroes for democracy, who i am so privileged to be standing with, you will see many freshmen. we are hot off a campaign trail that for many of us went for well over a year. for some of us it was a year and a half. we spent every single day of our campaigns on the ground talking to constituents, and i can tell you speaking for myself and many of my freshmen colleagues who i have spoken to over the course of our campaigns, cynicism and mistrust of congress is at an all time high. it is at a tragic level. american people cannot trust the
congress that creates the laws that govern their lives. and so we heard directly from our citizens about their disappointment with washington, d.c. at the very same time, we received our marching orders from them. they have told us they want us to work on an ambitious agenda. they want health care, they want us to deal with the challenges of our generation in climate change. they want comprehensive immigration reform. they want investments in real infrastructure. not a monument to division like a wall. they want real infrastructure projects. but in order for us to be able to sell that to the american public and ask them for their faith and their trust in us, we have to prove that we're trustworthy. that is why h.r. 1 is so critical. at the beginning of this new
congress, the 116th congress, at the beginning of a new era in government and governance, we must demonstrate to the american public that we're willing to police ourselves in order to build the big projects and dreams and ambitions that they have for our country. i come from local government. i spent over a decade in local government. where we passed sweeping ethics reforms, campaign finance reforms because if we didn't, our folks would have thrown us out of office. what is unacceptable at the local level has been acceptable in washington, d.c., for too long. representative sarbanes, thanks to you that day over and a new day has dawned. thank you-all very much. [applause] mr. sarbanes: i want to thank everybody for coming. i do want to acknowledge there are in this room many, many
grassroots organizations and groups who have been part of this effort to restore our democracy over the last few years and few months and decades. i thank them for their continuing efforts to give people their voice back. thank you for being here. i want to salute the new members who came to congress with this of reform pinned to their chest. they understand it wasn't just a message they were delivering, it was heard as a promise and that's why they want to deliver on this promise. but i want to close by talking to americans out there across the country who i know in many instances are hanging on by a thread. their cynicism is deep. their skepticism is broad. they don't know whether they can get their democracy back. they spent too long on the outside looking in. but as john lewis has said many, many times, don't give up.
and don't give in. the democratic majority wants to give you your voice back with h.r. 1, which is literally for the people. that's the name of the bill. with h.r. 1 we're committed, we're determined to restore a government of, by, and for the people. thank you for coming today. appreciate it. [applause]