House Democrats on Wednesday unveiled new legislation giving Congress more muscular oversight and anti-corruption tools to rein in current and future presidential abuses.
The Democrats are hoping to bolster congressional checks on the executive branch, as outlined by the Constitution. Among the items they want to closely monitor are presidential pardons; profiting personally from the office; and secure administrative compliance with congressional subpoenas.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the press, “During this once-in-a-generation moment, the Congress has a sacred obligation for the people to defend the rule of law and restore accountability and basic ethics to the government. And that is exactly what we’re doing [with this package].”
She added, “It is sad that the president’s actions have made this legislation necessary. As with other things, he gives us no choice.”
According to reports, the legislative package takes aim at the some of the most controversial episodes in the Trump presidency.
For example, one proposal would codify the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits presidents and other federal officials from accepting foreign gifts.
Another would expedite the judicial process surrounding congressional subpoenas.
Rep. Richard Neal, head of the House Ways and Means Committee said, “Congressional subpoenas are not requests that recipients can easily brush aside. They are indispensable as a tool that this body uses to investigate potential wrongdoing … and to prevent future abuses.”
Another provision of the new law strengthens Congress’s powers to dictate federal funding by penalizing executive officials who misappropriate taxpayer money for pet projects.
This one appears directed to President Trump, who has been accused repeatedly of abusing that power. It can be recalled that the president tapped Pentagon funding to build the wall at the Mexican border.
He also withheld federal funding from Ukraine in an effort to get leaders in Kyiv to launch an investigation into his political opponents. This one ultimately led to his impeachment.
Rep. John Yarmuth, head of the House Budget Committee, said, “I don’t think there’s ever been a more brazen violator of the power of the purse than Donald Trump. What’s made it worse is it’s not in advance of … some philosophical agenda, it’s his own personal political agenda.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, Intelligence Committee chairman, noted however, that the dwindling legislative calendar could mean that the legislation will be picked up next year.