House Democrats have a plan to actually drain the swamp. Senate Republicans are going to hate it.

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

House Democrats gained at least 40 seats in the November 2018 midterm elections, in part based on their promise to fight the culture of corruption that festered under the GOP’s control. As they usher in the 116th Congress on Thursday, the new House Majority plans to hit the ground running with two packages to actually drain the swamp and take on the for-profit Trumpadministration. But with Republicans still controlling the Senate, one of those packages is likely going to run into the massive anti-reform roadblock that is Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

As promised, incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her new majority plan to kick off the new Congress with a major sweeping anti-corruption bill — designated as H.R. 1 — and a series of House rule changes (H. Res. 6) that will address weaknesses in the House’s own operating policies.

Alex Tausanovitch, associate director of the democracy and government reform team at the Center for American Progress, called the rules changes a “down-payment on their efforts to fight corruption” that “shows they’re serious about taking on this culture of corruption we’ve seen proliferate in the past few years.” [ThinkProgress is an editorially independent project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund].

Those changes include a prohibition on members of Congress — like indicted New York Rep. Chris Collins (R) — serving on corporate boards, mandatory annual ethics training for all members, an expanded ban on sexual relationships between members and staffers, a new ombudsman for whistleblowers, and a formal ban on non-disclosure agreements (which have been used to conceal sexual harassment).

While the changes are not “earth-shattering,” Tausanovitch says, collectively they are meaningful and positive. “They’re not going to be game-changing by themselves, but show a commitment by this new leadership,” he said. Passing all of these rule changes will require a simple majority in the House, meaning Democrats can make these changes right away.

More significant, he said, is the broader package of reforms in H.R. 1, which was announced by Pelosi and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) late last year. Its provisions would end undisclosed “dark money” in political elections; tighten lobbyist registration loopholes; reform campaign-finance law to incentivize small political donations; and enact voting-rights reforms including a ban on partisan gerrymandering and a restoration of the Voting Rights Act.

“H.R. 1 will be a historic change. It signifies a major shift from previous congresses which have done nothing to address the culture of corruption in Washington,” Tausanovitch said.

But unlike the rules changes, H.R. 1 would need to be approved by both the House and Senate and signed by the president. And while Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) plans to introduce similar legislation in the upper chamber, there is virtually zero chance it will come up for a vote as long as McConnell is running the Senate.

Why? McConnell has made fighting against campaign finance reform his life’s work. He sued to try to stop the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (commonly known as McCain-Feingold), repeatedly filibustered dark-money disclosure, and has opposed campaign finance restrictions as “basically repeal[ing] the First Amendment.” As Senate majority leader, he will have the power to determine what legislation come to the floor, making H.R. 1 likely dead on arrival.

Moreover, members of McConnell’s caucus have been elected thanks in part to the very voter-suppression tactics and partisan gerrymandering that this bill would eliminate.

The package will also include a requirement that all presidential nominees release 10 years worth of tax returns — something unlikely to go over well with Trump or the Senate Republicans who have diligently shielded him from oversight for the past two years.

With the rules changes, the House Democrats may be able to take a bite of out corruption. But it will likely require a different Senate majority to bring real reform.

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Reposted from ThinkProgress

Josh Israel is a senior investigative reporter for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Previously, he was a reporter and oversaw money-in-politics reporting at the Center for Public Integrity, was chief researcher for Nick Kotz’s acclaimed 2005 book Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws that Changed America, and was president of the Virginia Partisans Gay & Lesbian Democratic Club. A New England-native, Josh received a B.A. in politics from Brandeis University and graduated from the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, in 2004. He has appeared on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox News, Current TV, and many radio shows across the country.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Members of Local 7798 achieve major goal with workplace violence policy

From the USW

Workers at Copper Country Mental Health Services in Houghton, Mich., obtained wage increases and pension improvements in their contract ratified earlier this year, but the benefit Local 7798 members were most proud of bargaining was language regarding workplace violence.

The contract committed the employer to appoint a committee, including two members of the local, to draft a workplace violence policy. Work quickly began on the policy, and just last week, the committee drafted and released its first clinical guideline focusing on responding to consumer aggression toward staff.

“We are so excited to have this go into effect,” said Unit Chair Rachelle Rodriguez of Local 7798. “This was a direct result of our last negotiating session.”

The guideline includes the definition of aggression and an outline of procedures, all of which will be reviewed yearly. And though this is just a first step in reducing the incident rates and harm of workplace violence in their workplace, it still is a big one for the local, and it wouldn’t have been possible without a collective bargaining agreement.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work