Roadmap for Renewal

Congressional Oversight and Legislation to Renew Our Democracy

In our constitutional system, Congress has a critical role to play in strengthening the institutions of our democracy and checking the power of the chief executive. To fulfill that role, Congress must draw on its implied and express powers under Article I: the power to investigate and the power to legislate, which go hand in hand. By gathering information about how the executive branch is executing the laws, Congress can pave the way for new legislative solutions.

The 116th Congress will have the imperative of reasserting its role as a guardian of our democracy. After democratic crises in our past, Congress used its oversight authority to examine the state of our institutions and enact wide-ranging reforms to improve the operation of our democracy. The post-Watergate era – which ushered in significant ethics, war powers, and intelligence reforms – can serve as a model for the next Congress. It is time for Congress again to use its oversight and legislative powers to protect and strengthen our democracy.

An Oversight Agenda for Protecting Our Democracy

To begin, the 116th Congress should shore up our democracy by using its oversight powers to examine abuses of executive power, identify important norms and laws that have been weakened or ignored, and start the process of restoring the rule of law. Protect Democracy has developed a package of proposed congressional investigations to achieve these goals. We propose fourteen investigations in three categories: (i) abuse of presidential and executive powers, (ii) corruption and politicization of democratic institutions, and (iii) failures to protect the American people. Each proposal contains a summary of the issue, the legal framework, and a detailed investigation plan, including documents to request and witnesses to question. These investigations will help pave the way for key democracy reform legislation by identifying the ways the current Administration has abused long-standing and bipartisan rules and norms.

A Legislative Blueprint for Restoring Our Democracy

Protect Democracy has also developed a comprehensive legislative package that should be advanced by a bipartisan majority in the new Congress to restore and renew the fundamental structures, institutions, and norms of our constitutional democracy. The Roadmap to Renewal, which we released on July 4 of this year, includes twenty-one reforms broken into five categories. The first three categories focus on the branches of government:(i) strengthening Congress’s capacity to fulfill its constitutional role; (ii) constraining abuses of executive power; and (iii) protecting the courts as a check on the other branches in order to uphold the constitution. The other two categories focus on deeper structural issues that have allowed for the decline of our democracy: (iv) protecting inclusive and fact-based democratic dissent, debate, and participation; and (v) modernizing our campaigns and election system to protect and enhance participation and accurately reflect the views of voters.

The oversight and legislative packages do not fall along traditional partisan lines and should be embraced by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. With bipartisan support, Congress can quickly begin tackling these issues and building momentum toward needed renewal.

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