Democrats unveil new agenda to drain Trump's swamp in the run-up to the midterms

Screenshot/House DemocratsDemocrats unveil their democracy reform agenda at a press conference on Monday.
  • Democrats unveiled a new agenda to reform campaign finance, voting rights, and government-ethics laws on Monday, as part of their “better deal” campaign.
  • And this particular aspect of the agenda takes a direct shot at the president and what they call his “culture of corruption.”
  • “The swamp has never been more foul or more fetid than under this president,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday.

Democrats unveiled a new agenda to clean up Washington and what House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called “one of the most compromised, corrupt administrations in history” on Monday.

The effort is part of Democrats’ playbook to take back the House – and possibly the Senate – in November’s midterms and was crafted as dozens of reports have emerged of potential ethics violations committed by members of President Donald Trump’s administration.

The agenda, “A Better Deal for Our Democracy,” proposes reforms to campaign finance, ethics, and voting rights laws, and harkens back to an ethics reform package Democrats passed in 2007 in the wake of corruption scandals in the George W. Bush administration.

“The swamp has never been more foul or more fetid than under this president,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said at a press conference on Monday afternoon during which congressional leaders and reform advocates unveiled the new arm of their “better deal” campaign on the Capitol steps.

“President Trump has become the swamp,” Pelosi added.

The Democracy Reform Task Force, a group of House Democrats seeking to “confront the Trump Administration’s conflicts of interest and ethical lapses,” is championing the effort. The group has kept a close eye on the administration’s apparent conflicts of interest, publishing reports documenting hundreds of instances of potential ethical transgressions.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat and a vice chair of the task force, told Business Insider on Monday that their agenda complements the party’s economic promises, which include growing jobs, hiking wages, and lowering the cost of living.

“I think that this effort and this set of reforms really makes a connection between what Americans are feeling and seeing every day in Trump’s DC to how we actually start to make government work for the people,” she said.

Some of the “better deal” proposals – including voting-rights measures like same-day and automatic voter registration and ending felon disenfranchisement – are already underway in some states. Others, including passing a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, are more ambitious.

‘Closing the Cohen loophole’

Democrats are taking a lesson from 2016, when Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, then a Democratic presidential candidate, both campaigned heavily on their populist promises to cure Washington corruption.

But Trump has done little to “drain the swamp” – and Democrats see an opening.

“Democrats are actually trying to change the system,” Jayapal said. “Republicans have no interest in that.”

Schumer and other lawmakers called out Trump administration officials, including former Health and Human Services Sec. Tom Price, who was pushed out after spending more than $US1 million in taxpayer money to travel on private and military jets; Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, who’s facing a dozen congressional investigations into his spending and other practices in office; and Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who secretly received millions of dollars from corporations reportedly in exchange for access and insight into the Trump administration.

“Michael Cohen’s pay-to-play scheme is a stark reminder of the glaring need to take real action – not just rhetoric, but action with actual teeth – to bring accountability and transparency to Washington,” Schumer said at the press conference, adding that Democrats are “closing the Cohen loophole.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, mentioned the single, anonymous donor who gave $US24.6 million to a nonprofit closely aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, and another donor who gave $US17.9 million to a conservative organisation that campaigned for Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Court.

“People in this country feel like they’re not being listened to by their government – it’s because they’re not,” Whitehouse said. “And the reason is the unlimited money and the dark money that are the scourge of our politics.”

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