Big Picture

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a fellow Republican, will not allow passage of any legislation that promotes transparency, election security, better government or the constitutional Article 1 obligation for congressional oversight of the executive branch," writes former Rep. Claudine Schneider, a Republican.

This is not the Republican Party that made America great

Schneider represented Rhode Island in the House of Representatives from 1981 to 1991 as a Republican.

In the 2016 election, Republicans took control of the White House, the United States Senate and the House of Representatives – effectively controlling all the levers of legislative power.

Do you remember the very first bill that the new Republican House introduced?

It was a bill to gut the House Ethics Committee – the "watchdog" committee responsible for investigating wrongdoing by members of Congress, such as harassment, campaign finance abuse and other violations of the public trust.

As a Republican former member of Congress, this was an alarming "ah ha" moment for me. I knew nothing good could come of that gambit and that it would portend similar Republican power grabs to come.

The new Republican congressional majority also made me realize I would have to pay even closer attention to the maneuverings of my own party!

Happily, in this instance there was such a public outcry about the neutering of the Ethics Committee that Republican leaders quickly reversed course and abandoned this blatant attempt to undermine congressional accountability. However, as we saw during 2017 and 2018, Republican House leaders still did everything they could to stymie good governance.

Fast forward two years later: The voters speak.

Democrats gain the House majority following a "wave" election. Voters around the country were fed up with the lack of ethics in Washington.

Do you remember the very first bill that the new Democratic House introduced after the 2018 election?

It was a bill to restore transparency, oversight, and ethics to congressional operations, by enhancing voting rights, enacting campaign finance reform and cracking down on lobbying abuses.

This bill, with the symbolically important designation of "HR 1," passed on a party-line vote and went to the Senate for consideration.

And then it went to the Senate. End of story.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a fellow Republican, will not allow passage of any legislation that promotes transparency, election security, better government or the constitutional Article 1 obligation for congressional oversight of the executive branch.

McConnell's proudest accomplishments have been to thwart President Obama's legislative goals and judicial appointments.

Remember Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland? McConnell made sure the Supreme Court was shorthanded for nearly a year by blocking Garland from a fair nomination hearing during the last year of Obama's presidency. Now in a miraculous change of heart, McConnell has promised a speedy hearing should any future vacancies occur during the Trump presidency, even during an election year (his original rationale for blocking Garland's nomination).

McConnell is a classic Republican "enabler" who will go down in history as Gravedigger of the Rule of Law.

Simply put, Mitch McConnell represents the modern Republican Party – a party that increasingly can win elections only by gerrymandering, restricting voting rights and gaming the campaign financing system.

I served in Congress as a Republican. I am still a Republican, but this is not the Republican Party that made America great.

To restore the Republican Party, we need to restore its founding principles of limited government, equal rights and freedom for all.

So how should we go about restoring these founding principles of the party?

It's really not difficult in practice: We begin by passing HR 1 in the Senate and sending it to the White House. Passing HR 1 into law would start the process of repairing America's constitutional paralysis, reinvigorate our system of checks and balances, and restore voter confidence in "the system" - which, under Republican sway, is being dismantled.

Once we start restoring the constitutional rule of law and repairing the damage caused by Republican misrule, our democratic institutions will regain legitimacy and will begin to function properly once again.

America has long stood as a beacon of fairness and justice but not under this "Republican" Party. My Republican colleagues and I always asked, "Is this bill in the best interest of the general public?" Clearly the current Republicans don't care. If they did, the Senate would vote on HR 1, rather than bury it.

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Stacey Abrams testified before a House Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday.

Abrams calls for reviving federal oversight of some elections

Stacey Abrams, who gained national attention during her failed 2018 bid for the Georgia governorship, is urging Congress to restore federal oversight of elections in some states.

Had she won the extremely close contest, Abrams would now be the first black female governor in America. She and her fellow Democrats maintain the election was not fairly conducted in part because her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, was secretary of state – and therefore Georgia's top elections official – at the time.

Abrams was the most prominent witness Tuesday at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on civil rights and elections in the six years since the Supreme Court eviscerated the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In Shelby County v. Holder, the court struck down the part of the law requiring advance federal approval before any changes in voting laws or practices in parts of country with a history of voter discrimination. All of Georgia had been subjected to this so-called preclearance requirement, which the court ruled is now unconstitutionally outdated.

Calling for Congress to come up with a new system for preclearance that could withstand another such challenge, Abrams said that jurisdictions formerly covered by the law "have raced to reinstate or create new hurdles to voter registration, access to the ballot box, and ballot counting."

Abrams said a voter registration group she created in Georgia, which was active in her 2018 race, submitted thousands of forms to Kemp's office and soon discovered "artificial delays" in processing those registrations. The state's requirement that names on registrations exactly match records of other government agencies sidetracked thousands more.

Both practices had a greater impact on black citizens, she said, because they are more likely to register through third-party groups like the one she founded, Fair Fight Action.

And both, she said, would have been stopped in advance under preclearance.

Abrams also charged that Kemp improperly purged names from the voter rolls.

"By denying the real and present danger posed by those who see voters of color as a threat to be neutralized rather than as fellow citizens to be engaged," Abrams said, the six-year-old Supreme Court ruling "has destabilized the whole of our democratic experiment."

After the election, Abrams created Fair Fight Action to combat the tactics used against her. It has also sued the Georgia secretary of state and is asking the federal courts to revive preclearance for any election law changes in her state.

House Democratic leaders have written legislation creating a new set of rules for the Justice Department to use in determining which states must get such preclearance, and it has more than enough sponsors to pass. But the bill would almost certainly be shelved by the Republicans in charge in the Senate.

Big Picture

Dear presidential candidates: Use your manners

The National Institute for Civil Discourse has a message for the 20 Democratic presidential candidates who will participate in debates on Wednesday and Thursday nights: Remember first grade.

In other words, don't poke your neighbor, wait your turn, and if you can't say something nice, don't say anything.


Seriously, the institute, which studies and promotes civility in political debate is reminding candidates of standards it developed in 2015 in advance of the last presidential election season.

They say that politicians living up to basic standards of civility, especially when they're on national television, is essential if the angry tribal nature of America discourse is ever going to ease. "Zingers and insults might get headlines, but it's leading to a culture of candidates who stand out by throwing punches and amplifying the polarization of our politics," said Keith Allred, the institute's executive director.

The guidelines for the candidates are:

  1. Be respectful of others in speech and behavior.
  2. Giphy

  3. Answer the question being asked by the moderator.
  4. Make ideas and feelings known without disrespecting others.
  5. Take responsibility for past and present behavior, speech and actions.
  6. Giphy

  7. Stand against incivility when faced with it.

The institute also developed guidelines for the moderators of the debates. (NBC and MSNBC are providing the ones for these debates.) They are:

  1. Address uncivil behavior by naming it and moderating the conversation to move toward more respectful dialogue.
  2. Enforce debate rules equally.
  3. Hold candidates accountable by challenging each candidate to speak the truth and act with integrity.
  4. Giphy

  5. Treat all candidates equally in regard to the complexity of questions and debate rules.
  6. Be respectful when interacting with candidates.
The NICD said its five-point plans for all the participants emerged from research on deliberation techniques, surveys to gauge citizens' definitions of what constitutes civil and uncivil language in public life, and conversations with elected officials and members of the press.