The House last week passed the so-called “Protecting Our Democracy Act” by a near strict party-line margin of 220 to 208. The bill seeks to impose new limits on Presidential power, many of which bi-partisan critics of “the Imperial Presidency” have advocated in the past (including me). Amazingly for anything coming out of the House of Pelosi, it’s a mostly good and reasonable bill….but there’s a catch.
“Disturbingly, the last administration saw our democracy in crisis with a rogue president who trampled over the guardrails protecting our Republic,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, framing the proposed law as one more partisan slap at the previous President. “Now, Congress has the solemn responsibility and opportunity to safeguard our democracy, ensuring that past abuses can never be perpetrated by any president of any party.”
Uh, but laws are the “guardrails of democracy,” not “norms,” which are merely what most Presidents have done but didn’t have to. The “norms” trope was one of the most transparently false of the Democratic Party phony Big Lies, and frankly I’m sick of explaining why. Here was one exposition on the topic (Big Lie #6), in which I quoted an earlier EA discussion of the topic:
This deliberately misleading talking point comes from the quieter Siamese Twin of Fake News, Fake History. Every President defies previous norms, or makes up new ones, and the stronger the Presidents involved are, the more norms they shatter. This doesn’t automatically threaten democracy…What threatens democracy is efforts to de-legitimize presidential power as an alternative to winning elections…
The bill passed by the Democrats includes,
- …a requirement for Presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns, which Trump refused to do as was his right.
- …..finally putting legislative specifics into the currently dead letter Emoluments Clause, which has never been enforced and is fatally outdated.
- …requiring campaigns to report any offers of foreign assistance to the FBI.
- …limiting the Presidential pardon power when quid pro quo is implied
- …new protections against firing inspectors general without a good reason or retaliating against whistle-blowers.
- ….limits on a President’s ability to spend or freeze funds contrary to congressional appropriations.
- …allowing lawsuits over congressional subpoenas to be resolved more quickly so a stonewalling by Executive branch cannot “run out the clock “on oversight efforts;
- …requiring the Justice Department to give Congress logs of all contacts with White House officials
- …strengthening the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in campaign politics at work.
- ….suspending the statute of limitations for any federal crime committed by a sitting president or vice president.
- ….authorizing courts to issue fines to government officials who refuse to cooperate with congressional subpoenas.
- ….treating an eligible Presidential candidate and VP candidate to be treated as the winners of an election if the GSA doesn’t begin the transition process within five days of an election, until an ascertainment is made or Congress certifies the actual winner.
For the most part these are reasonable reforms. Stupidly, they are framed so directly as an attack on Donald Trump, as if he were the only President who breached “norms,” that Republicans have refused to endorse the bill, making its passage in the Senate virtually impossible. Moreover, they are hilariously self-indicting for House Democrats. If the Democratic Party’s claims (and those of the news media, but I repeat myself) during Trump’s term that Trump was really engaging in abuses of power and law had a firm basis in reality, the bill’s provisions would have been redundant and unnecessary. By passing the bill, the Democrats now admit that, for example, the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause was too vague to apply to Trump’s hotels. They also admit that their hysterical claims of impeachable conduct were lies and public disinformation.
Several of the provisions also reflect the conduct of recent Democratic Presidents, like Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich, and violations of the Hatch Act by Obama Cabinet members. The Democrats’ obsession with Trump for once led it in an ethical direction; too bad they had neither the discipline, restraint or intelligence to keep their mania from undermining their bill.
But as it has been wisely said, Trump Derangement giveth, and it taketh away.