HISTORIC 116TH CONGRESS: Two Chambers Offer Contrasting Views for Our Future
The 116th Congress was historic for many reasons. Historians will point to the obvious — the third impeachment of a president in U.S. history and the underwhelming Special Counsel Report by Robert Mueller that led up to it. But for the long term interest of the republic, the 116th Congress should be noted as a harbinger of change. What that change looks like depends on which chamber you look at and which path voters decide to follow in November 2020.
In the House of Representatives, the 116th Congress will be known for the largest and most diverse class of new members in a dramatic shift in the balance of power. They came to Washington on a mission reflected in the For the People Act. Designated as H.R. 1, a statement of the highest priority given to the most sweeping democracy reform bill ever introduced, this comprehensive, democracy reform package includes a bold set of solutions already working in cities and states across the country.
As dynamic, diverse, and hopeful as the House was, the Senate was a harbinger of a different kind of change; darker, a dearth of ideas, and grim foreshadowing of a time when dissent and debate aren’t allowed. The GOP, with the exception of Sen. Mitt Romney (UT), moved in near lock-step under Leader McConnell’s iron grip, and failed to stand up to President Trump’s continued abuses of power and disregard for the rule of law.
The Senate’s decision not to convict President Trump on charges of abuse of power or obstruction of Congress at the impeachment trial emboldened him and his administration. From trying to suppress votes in predominantly Black and Brown communities, to excluding undocumented individuals from the Census, to disrupting the United States Postal Service to create confusion and cast doubt on voting by mail, President Trump has shown that he will use every lever of government to benefit himself.
President Trump’s abuses of power are especially egregious when seen in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic. As he stokes fears about the integrity of our elections, his party files multiple lawsuits in swing states against common-sense voting reforms, such as expanded vote-by-mail and ballot drop boxes. Now, millions of Americans will be asked to choose between risking their health and their right to vote this year.
If the primaries are any indication, it appears the people are ready to overcome any obstacle to make sure their voices are heard in 2020. To help them hold power accountable at the ballot box, Common Cause today published the 2020 Democracy Scorecard.
2020 DEMOCRACY SCORECARD
As part of our nonpartisan mission, Common Cause publishes a Democracy Scorecard every election cycle to help concerned citizens evaluate every current member of Congress on key democracy reform issues and build support for these solutions. We do not endorse or oppose any candidates in the scorecard — rather, we strongly urge all voters to check the record and work to hold power accountable.
What the 2020 Democracy Scorecard makes plain is the blatant disregard for democracy reforms in the Senate. The House of Representatives passed nearly 10 democracy reform bills, often with bipartisan support, this session, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked debate and mark-ups on all of these bills and refused to allow a vote. “In fact, the Senate’s inaction has the 116th Congress on track to be the least productive in history, with just one percent of the bills becoming law,” says Aaron Scherb, author of the 2020 Democracy Scorecard.
Despite this inaction, we wanted to ensure all Members of Congress got a fair evaluation in the 2020 Democracy Scorecard. We sent each congressional office four letters listing the bills included in this year’s Scorecard to make sure every member of Congress knew which bills he or she was being evaluated on. Since these letters were sent, a combined total of more than 150 cosponsors have been added to these collective bills so voters can know what their Members of Congress are doing to protect our democracy.
If enacted, the measures included in the 2020 Democracy Scorecard would:
- Effectively overturn the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision
- Strengthen our voting laws by updating provisions of the Voting Rights Act gutted by the Shelby v. Holder ruling
- Ensure that all residents are counted in the census
- Provide automatic registration so that voters are added to voter rolls when they interact with state agencies
- Create independent citizens’ commissions to draw new legislative districts to end gerrymandering and make sure voters choose their representatives, not the other way around
- Enhance transparency requirements for political contributions and spending
- Break the power of big money in our elections by incentivizing small-dollar contributions and crack down on foreign influence in our election
- Tighten the prohibition on political spending by foreign entities
Highlights from the 2020 Democracy Scorecard:
- More than 50 House Members supported critical democracy reforms 100 percent of the time
- 16 Senators supported critical democracy reforms at least 90 percent of the time
- Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) was the highest scoring Republican with two votes related to the impeachment of President Trump
- Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D-CA) was among the leaders who scored 100 percent
- The states with the strongest democracy reform delegations include California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico and Oregon.
Join us in holding power accountable. Visit and share the 2020 Democracy Scorecard.
And remember: The 2020 Democracy Scorecard is just one of the resources we provide to voters to hold power accountable. To see where candidates stand on democracy reform, visit OurDemocracy2020.org. To volunteer for Election Protection by serving as a nonpartisan poll monitor, social media monitor and text banker, visit ProtectTheVote.net.