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Congress Takes Major First Step Toward Building Post-Trump Legislative Guardrails

The introduction of the Protecting Our Democracy Act marks the start of long-term work to prevent future presidential abuses of power and strengthen checks and balances

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress took a meaningful step on Wednesday toward preventing future presidents — Republican, Democratic, or otherwise — from abusing their power.

House Democrats unveiled the Protecting Our Democracy Act, a sweeping package of reforms that would help restore checks and balances between Congress and the White House and begin to repair the damage that President Trump and his administration have inflicted on government institutions. The reforms would help make clear that no president is above the law or the Constitution, as well as create new guardrails in areas where President Trump abused his power — and where his successors could imitate him without Congress putting up new barriers.

Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and strengthening democratic norms and institutions, strongly backs this legislation. Congress should make it an institutional and bipartisan priority now and approve it before Election Day. Many of the package’s proposals, including reform of the National Emergencies Act and congressional subpoena enforcement, have been driven by Republicans or been key Republican concerns in the past. While President Trump’s tenure in office has made the need for reforms more acute, many of these reforms stem in part from prior instances of presidents of both parties abusing their power, coinciding with a decades-long trend of the executive branch claiming power at the expense of Congress. This is an opportunity for both parties to reestablish Congress’s authority ahead of the 2020 elections and to signal to the American people that they believe that presidents should serve the country’s interests, not their own.

“Just as Congress created guardrails following President Nixon’s abuses of power, Congress is now stepping up and protecting our democratic institutions from further damage,” said Protect Democracy’s Justin Vail. “The Protecting Our Democracy Act sends a strong message to the American public that there are those in Congress fighting to uphold the rule of law and ensure that the abuses of power we are now witnessing never happen again, no matter who is in the White House.”

“The Protecting Our Democracy Act represents long-time bipartisan consensus that the President must be subject to the rule of law and the separation of powers,” said Protect Democracy’s Soren Dayton. “Many of these provisions have received bipartisan support in the past. This bill is an important down payment on protecting the rule of law and the separation of powers.”

Protect Democracy’s Justin Vail and Soren Dayton, alumni of the Obama White House and the McCain for President campaign, respectively, have worked closely with Capitol Hill staff on the reforms and are available for further comment and analysis by request.  A summary of Protect Democracy’s work is available here and here.