House passes sweeping voting rights, ethics bill

Dartunorro Clark
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference with other House Democrats to discuss H.R. 1, the For the People Act, in Washington on Wednesday, March 3, 2021.
Caroline Brehman | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

The House on Wednesday passed the For the People Act, a sweeping bill that seeks to make changes to campaign finance, voting and ethics laws.

The bill would expand access to the ballot box by creating automatic voter registration across the country, restoring the voting rights of the formerly incarcerated, expanding early voting and modernizing America's voting systems.

The House measure passed 220-210, with one Democrat joining all Republican House members to vote against the bill.

The bill would also strengthen oversight of political lobbying and campaign finance by preventing members of Congress from serving on corporate boards and requiring presidents to release their tax returns.

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Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., first introduced the legislation, also known as H.R. 1, in 2019, which passed the House but was stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate at the time. He reintroduced the act in January.

"The 2020 election underscored the need for comprehensive, structural democracy reform. Americans across the country were forced to overcome rampant voter suppression, gerrymandering and a torrent of special-interest dark money just to exercise their vote and their voice in our democracy," Sarbanes said in a statement.

Former President Donald Trump promised to release his financial records in full but ultimately refused to release his tax returns while running for president and as a candidate. Since his election defeat, there has been an effort by Republican state legislatures to propose tighter voting restrictions.

The White House Office of Management and Budget released a statement Monday in support of the bill, which also commits to restoring the Voting Rights Act, combats voter purging and reforms redistricting.

Although it passed the Democrat-controlled House, the Senate filibuster may stand in the way of its passage.

White House Press Sectary Jen Psaki was asked Monday if President Joe Biden supports abolishing the filibuster to pass the bill.

"The president is committed to protecting the fundamental right to vote and making it easier for all eligible Americans to vote," she said. "We're not going to get ahead of the process. The president's view on the filibuster is well-known. He has not changed that stance."