By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features, news-photos-features.com
Thousands gathered in Foley Square, in front of the federal court house, to hear calls for justice, equal rights and full personhood for women in face of the assault on abortion rights from Texas and dozens of states and the right wing majority Supreme Court’s deference and then marched up to Washington Square Park, bringing their messages of “Save Roe” “Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries”, “Hands off Our Privates” “We Won’t Go Back” and “Ruth Sent Us.” (See: NYC Joins Millions Across Country in Rallies, Marches for Women’s Reproductive Freedom)
By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features, news-photos-features.com
Thousands gathered in Foley Square, in front of the federal court house, to protest for justice, equal rights and full personhood for women in face of the assault on abortion rights from Texas and dozens of states and the right wing majority Supreme Court’s deference. The timing was key, just days before the Supreme Court begins its session in which it will hear a Mississippi case banning abortions after 15 weeks. Texas SB8 bans abortions after six-weeks, the theoretical point when a fetus has a heartbeat, and deputizes vigilantes and bounty hunters to enforce it against anyone even suspected of aiding a woman who gets an abortion and collect $10,000.
Rana Abdelhamid: “This is not about religion, not about life. They called us ‘hysterical’ for warning about the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade. It’s time for congress to do what’s right and protect our constitutional right to abortion. End the filibuster. We know what it is to have our bodies policed. Abolition Justice!
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU: We stand with women in Texas, Mississippi and all over the country. Abortion Justice. Reproductive Justice. Make New York a safe haven, close every loophole in state law, so anyone can come for reproductive health. We won’t turn back. We will be at every polling place in every election. Hold elected leaders accountable.
Heidi Sieck, Vote Pro Choice: Reproductive freedom and abortion justice are at stake. Small, massively overfunded group of white supremacist, Christian conservatives have invested in state legislatures, built an anti-choice infrastructure. They stole two Supreme Court seats. That changes now. Over 80 percent support reproductive freedom. Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (that passed the House, but not the senate), end the filibuster, rebalance Supreme Court. In November, 2021, 40,000 seats are up for election. Every ingle elected has a role to protect reproductive rights. Not just congress but state and local. Run for office, donate to VoteProChoice.us.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney: They have been chipping away at abortion rights for years, but now they are bulldozing our rights into the ground.Last week, chaired House Oversight Committee on Texas SB8, when three Congresswomen told their abortion stories. Women are speaking out. In December, Mississippi comes before the Supreme Court. For my entire time in Congress we hadn’t had a pro-choice majority, until this year. We passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, codifying Roe. It has to pass in the Senate. We could pass it except for the filibuster. We have to carve out an exception. There is no democracy if women cannot control their own bodies, make their own reproduction choices. It is so outrageous, I can’t believe we are still fighting for this.
Brita Filter: Abortion rights are LGBTQ rights.
Congressman Jerry Nadler, who, over 50 years ago, lobbied the New York State Assembly to legalize abortion: It’s been 30 days since women were stripped of their constitutional rights, their freedom to make their own decisions of their lives, their bodies. That’s 30 days too many.
Amsi: The battle for reproductive rights is not new. It’s been long, hard, frustrating.
Pascale Bernard, Planned Parenthood of New York City: History is repeating. We have been here before. Enough is enough. Women in Texas are having to drive to Oklahoma, having to choose between paying for an abortion or feeding their children. People are scared. Justice Ginsburg told us to dissent, she left a roadmap to protect reproductive rights. We are lucky in New York, but we nee dto close loopholes, we need an abortion fund so women can come to New York for care, for safety.
Cathy Rojas, a teacher and candidate for NYC mayor running as a Socialist: We need to build a sustainable people-powered movement ion New York City, In Texas, where people were freezing and is one of worst states to live – hunger, poverty of children, maternal mortality – they are leading the attack on abortion rights. So when claim is about protecting life, is really about protecting profit over lives.The right wing don’t give a damn about lives. Instead of dealing with the real crises are attacking abortion rights. Congress is ineffective at passing laws for basic necessities, but quick to bail out banks and the ultra rich. They always find time to attack women, LGBTQ and the vulnerable. This is not just about a bad law, but the whole damn system – the bigots, the politicians for hire, the courts up to the Supreme Court, the corporate control of the media, the police and ICE. I am fed up with capitalism. We need systemic change.
The Band Betty: We are one-fourth through the 21st century. I don’t see flying cars or universal health care. I see women being told to be ashamed. Until women have equal rights in the Constitution, we will continue to see how the state commands our fate.
Rev. Nori Rost, New York Society of Ethical Culture: They are “protecting” a fetus with a heartbeat? How about fighting for people who already have a heart beat. Anti-choice, anti-woman is nothing new – it is about subjugation, oppression. We will not give up, shut up, slow down, sit down until all people have agency over their own body. We are among millions marching as one, we will not be stopped.
Jeannie Park (Warriors in the Garden): Abortion bans have no humanity, no exception for rape, incenst. 3 million have experienced rape, the next 3 million will be forced to carry to term. The penalty to abort is more severe than to rape. Women’s bodies are more regulated than guns. What does it mean to be pro life if you only value certain lives. Encouraging vigilantes, bounty hunters is too lcose to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. I will not go back.
Miriam Elhajli sings a song 100 years old, “Wagoner’s Lad,” and sounding so much like Joan Baez who sang it: “Oh, hard is the fortune of all woman kind/She’s always controlled, she’s always confined/Controlled by her parents until she’s a wife/A slave to her husband the rest of her life”
Carol Jenkins, Co-President and CEO of The ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equality: The Equal Rights Amendment has been around for 100 years; it has been 50 years since passed in Congress, now 38 states have ratified it, so could be published in the Constitution. The only hold up is a time limit, put into the introduction, not the amendment. The root of sexism, misogyny, and racism is in the Constitution, written by slaveholding white males. Everything we’ve been doing since has been to repair what was left out of the Constitution. We have to put the ERA on list of things, so we don’t have to keep repairing the Constitution. Congress has removed the timeline twice, it is now in the Senate. We are done having to beg for rights, gather in the streets and ask “please”. Go to ERACoalition.org.
Here is a highlighted transcript of President Joe Biden’s speech to a joint session of Congress, April 28, 2021:
9:06 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Good to be back. And Mitch and Chuck will understand it’s good to be almost home, down the hall. Anyway, thank you all.
Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President — (applause) — no President has ever said those words from this podium. No President has ever said those words, and it’s about time. (Applause.)
First Lady — (applause) — I’m her husband; Second Gentleman; Chief Justice; members of the United States Congress and the Cabinet; distinguished guests; my fellow Americans: While the setting tonight is familiar, this gathering is just a little bit different — a reminder of the extraordinary times we’re in.
Throughout our history, Presidents have come to this chamber to speak to Congress, to the nation, and to the world to declare war, to celebrate peace, to announce new plans and possibilities.
Tonight, I come to talk about crisis and opportunity, about rebuilding the nation, revitalizing our democracy, and winning the future for America.
I stand here tonight, one day shy of the 100th day of my administration — 100 days since I took the oath of office and lifted my hand off our family Bible and inherited a nation — we all did — that was in crisis.
The worst pandemic in a century. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.
Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again — (applause) — turning peril into possibility, crisis to opportunity, setbacks into strength.
We all know life can knock us down. But in America, we never, ever, ever stay down. Americans always get up. Today, that’s what we’re doing: America is rising anew, choosing hope over fear, truth over lies, and light over darkness.
After 100 days of rescue and renewal, America is ready for takeoff, in my view. We’re working again, dreaming again, discovering again, and leading the world again.
We have shown each other and the world that there’s no quit in America — none.
One hundred days ago, America’s house was on fire. We had to act. And thanks to the extraordinary leadership of Speaker Pelosi; Majority Leader Schumer; and the overwhelming support of the American people — Democrats, independents, and Republicans — we did act.
Togetherwe passed the American Rescue Plan — one of the most consequential rescue packages in American history. We’re already seeing the results. (Applause.) We’re already seeing the results.
After I promised we’d get 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots into people’s arms in 100 days, we will have provided over 220 million COVID shots in those 100 days. (Applause.)
Thanks to all the help of all of you, we’re marshalling — with your help, everyone’s help — we’re marshalling every federal resource. We’ve gotten vaccines to nearly 40,000 pharmacies and over 700 Community Health Centers where the poorest of the poor can be reached. We’re setting up community vaccination sites, developing mobile units to get to hard-to-reach communities.
Today, 90 percent of Americans now live within five miles of a vaccination site. Everyone over the age of 16 – everyone is now eligible to get vaccinated right now, right away. (Applause.) Go get vaccinated, America. Go and get the vaccination. They’re available. You’re eligible now.
When I was sworn in on January 20th, less than 1 percent of the seniors in America were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. One hundred days later, 70 percent of seniors in America over 65 are protected — fully protected.
Senior deaths from COVID-19 are down 80 percent since January — down 80 percent because of all of you. And more than half of all the adults in America have gotten at least one shot.
At a mass vaccination center in Glendale, Arizona, I asked a nurse — I said, “What’s it like?” She looked at me and she said, “It’s like every shot is giving a dose of hope” — was the phrase. “A dose of hope.”
A dose of hope for an educator in Florida who has a child suffering from an autoimmune disease — wrote to me, said she’s worried — that she was worrying about bringing the virus home. She said she then got vaccinated at a — at a large site, in her car. She said she sat in her car, when she got vaccinated, and just cried — cried out of joy and cried out of relief.
Parents see the smiles on their kids’ faces, for those who are able to go back to school because the teachers and school bus drivers and cafeteria workers have been vaccinated.
Grandparents hugging their children and grandchildren instead of pressing hands against a window to say goodbye.
It means everything. Those things mean everything.
You know, there’s still — you all know it; you know it better than any group of Americans — there’s still more work to do to beat this virus. We can’t let our guard down.
But tonight I can say it: Because of you, the American people, our progress these past 100 days against one of the worst pandemics in history has been one of the greatest logistical achievements — logistical achievements this country has ever seen.
What else have we done in those first 100 days?
We kept our commitment — Democrats and Republicans — of sending $1,400 rescue checks to 85 percent of American households. We’ve already sent more than one — 160 million checks out the door. It’s making the difference. You all know it when you go home. For many people, it’s making all the difference in the world.
A single mom in Texas who wrote to me, she said she couldn’t work, but she said the relief check put food on the table and saved her and her son from eviction from their apartment.
A grandmother in Virginia who told me she immediately took her granddaughter to the eye doctor — something she said she put off for months because she didn’t have the money.
One of the defining images, at least from my perspective, of this crisis has been cars lined up — cars lined up for miles. And not — not people who just barely ever start those cars — nice cars lined up for miles, waiting for a box of food to be put in their trunk.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t ever think I’d see that in America. And all of this is through no fault of their own. No fault of their own these people are in this position.
That’s why the Rescue Plan is delivering food and nutrition assistance to millions of Americans facing hunger, and hunger is down sharply already.
We’re also providing rental assistance — you all know this, but the American people, I want to make sure they understand — keeping people from being evicted from their homes, providing loans to small businesses to reopen and keep their employees on the job.
During these 100 days, an additional 800,000 Americans enrolled in the Affordable Care Act when I established the special sign-up period to do that — 800,000 in that period.
We’re making one of the largest one-time ever investments — ever — in improving healthcare for veterans. Critical investments to address the opioid crisis. And, maybe most importantly, thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we’re on track to cut child poverty in America in half this year. (Applause.)
[Notably, the Republicans kept their seats and silence.]
And in the process, while this was all going on, the economy created more than 1,300,000 new jobs in 100 days — more jobs in the first — (applause) — more jobs in the first 100 days than any President on record.
The International Monetary Fund — (applause) — the International Monetary Fund is now estimating our economy will grow at a rate of more than 6 percent this year. That will be the fastest pace of economic growth in this country in nearly four decades.
America is moving — moving forward — but we can’t stop now. We’re in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st Century. We’re at a great inflection point in history.
We have to do more than just build back better — I mean “build back.” We have to build back better. We have to compete more strenuously than we have.
Throughout our history, if you think about it, public investment and infrastructure has literally transformed America — our attitudes, as well as our opportunities.
The transcontinental railroad, the interstate highways united two oceans and brought a totally new age of progress to the United States of America.
Universal public schools and college aid opened wide the doors of opportunity.
Scientific breakthroughs took us to the Moon — now we’re on Mars; discovering vaccines; gave us the Internet and so much more.
These are the investments we made together as one country, and investments that only the government was in a position to make. Time and again, they propel us into the future.
That’s why I proposed the American Jobs Plan — a once-in-a-generation investment in America itself. This is the largest jobs plan since World War Two.
It creates jobs to upgrade our transportation infrastructure; jobs modernizing our roads, bridges, highways; jobs building ports and airports, rail corridors, transit lines.
It’s clean water. And, today, up to 10 million homes in America and more than 400,000 schools and childcare centers have pipes with lead in them, including in drinking water — a clear and present danger to our children’s health.
The American Jobs Plan creates jobs replacing 100 percent of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines so every American can drink clean water. (Applause.)
And in the process, it will create thousands and thousands of good-paying jobs. It creates jobs connecting every American with high-speed Internet, including 35 percent of the rural America that still doesn’t have it.
This is going to help our kids and our businesses succeed in the 21st-century economy.
And I am asking the Vice President to lead this effort, if she would —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Of course.
THE PRESIDENT: — because I know it will get done. (Applause.)
It creates jobs, building a modern power grid. Our grids are vulnerable to storms, hacks, catastrophic failures — with tragic results, as we saw in Texas and elsewhere during the winter storms.
The American Jobs Plan will create jobs that will lay thousands of miles of transmission lines needed to build a resilient and fully clean grid. We can do that. (Applause.)
Look, the American Jobs Plan will help millions of people get back to their jobs and back to their careers.
Two million women have dropped out of the workforce during this pandemic — two million. And too often because they couldn’t get the care they needed to care for their child or care for an elderly parent who needs help.
Eight hundred thousand families are on a Medicare waiting list right now to get homecare for their aging parent or loved one with a disability. If you think it’s not important, check out in your own district.
Democrat or Republican — Democrat or Republican voters, their great concern — almost as much as their children — is taking care of an elderly loved one who can’t be left alone. Medicaid contemplated it, but this plan is going to help those families and create jobs for our caregivers with better wages and better benefits, continuing a cycle of growth.
For too long, we’ve failed to use the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis: “jobs.” Jobs. Jobs. (Applause.)
For me, when I think “climate change,” I think “jobs.”
The American Jobs Plan will put engineers and construction workers to work building more energy-efficient buildings and homes. Electrical workers — IBEW members — installing 500,000 charging stations along our highways so we can own — (applause) — so we can own the electric car market. (Applause.)
Farmers — farmers planting cover crops so they can reduce the carbon dioxide in the air and get paid for doing it. (Applause.)
Look, but think about it: There is simply no reason why the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing. No reason. None. No reason. (Applause.)
So, folks, there’s no reason why American — American workers can’t lead the world in the production of electric vehicles and batteries. I mean, there is no reason. We have this capacity. (Applause.) We have the brightest, best-trained people in the world.
The American Jobs Plan is going to create millions of good-paying jobs — jobs Americans can raise a family on — as my dad would then say, “with a little breathing room.”
And all the investments in the American Jobs Plan will be guided by one principle: Buy American. (Applause.) Buy American.
And I might note, parenthetically — (applause) — that does not — that does not violate any trade agreement. It’s been the law since the ’30s: Buy American.
American tax dollars are going to be used to buy American products made in America to create American jobs. That’s the way it’s supposed to be and it will be in this administration. (Applause.)
And I made it clear to all my Cabinet people. Their ability to give exemptions has been strenuously limited. It will be American products.
Now I know some of you at home are wondering whether these jobs are for you. So many of you — so many of the folks I grew up with feel left behind, forgotten in an economy that’s so rapidly changing. It’s frightening.
I want to speak directly to you. Because if you think about it, that’s what people are most worried about: “Can I fit in?”
Independent experts estimate the American Jobs Plan will add millions of jobs and trillions of dollars to economic growth in the years to come. It is an eight-year program. These are good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced.
Nearly 90 percent of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan do not require a college degree; 75 percent don’t require an associate’s degree.
The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America. That’s what it is. (Applause.)
And it recognizes something I’ve always said in this chamber and the other. Good guys and women on Wall Street, but Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built the country, and unions built the middle class. (Applause.)
So that’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass the Protect the Right to Organize Act — the PRO Act — and send it to my desk so we can support the right to unionize. (Applause.)
And, by the way, while you’re thinking about sending things to my desk — (laughs) — let’s raise the minimum wage to $15. (Applause.)
No one — no one working 40 hours a week — no one working 40 hours a week should live below the poverty line.
We need to ensure greater equity and opportunity for women. And while we’re doing this, let’s get the Paycheck Fairness Act to my desk as well — equal pay. It’s been much too long. And if you’re wondering whether it’s too long, look behind me. (Applause.)
And finally, the American Jobs Plan will be the biggest increase in nondefense research and development on record. We will see more technological change — and some of you know more about this than I do — we’ll see more technological change in the next 10 years than we saw in the last 50. That’s how rapidly artificial intelligence and so much more is changing.
And we’re falling behind the competition with the rest of the world.
Decades ago, we used to invest 2 percent of our gross domestic product in America — 2 percent of our gross domestic product — in research and development.
Today, Mr. Secretary, that’s less than 1 percent. China and other countries are closing in fast. We have to develop and dominate the products and technologies of the future:advanced batteries, biotechnology, computer chips, clean energy.
The Secretary of Defense can tell you — and those of you on — who work on national security issues know — the Defense Department has an agency called DARPA — the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. The people who set up before I came here — and that’s been a long time ago — to develop breakthroughs that enhance our national security -– that’s their only job. And it’s a semi-separate agency; it’s under the Defense Department. It’s led to everything from the discovery of the Internet to GPS and so much more that has enhanced our security.
The National Institute of Health — the NIH –- I believe, should create a similar Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health. (Applause.)
And that would — here’s what it would do. It would have a singular purpose: to develop breakthroughs to prevent, detect, and treat diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer.
I’ll still never forget when we passed the cancer proposal the last year I was Vice President — almost $9 million going to NIH. And if you excuse the point of personal privilege, I’ll never forget you standing and mentioning — saying you’d name it after my deceased son. It meant a lot.
But so many of us have deceased sons, daughters, and relatives who died of cancer. I can think of no more worthy investment. I know of nothing that is more bipartisan. So, let’s end cancer as we know it. (Applause.) It’s within our power. (Applause.) It’s within our power to do it. (Applause.)
Investments in jobs and infrastructure, like the ones we’re talking about, have often had bipartisan support in the past. Vice President Harris and I met regularly in the Oval Office with Democrats and Republicans to discuss the Jobs Plan. And I applaud a group of Republican senators who just put forward their own proposal.
So, let’s get to work. I wanted to lay out, before the Congress, my plan before we got into the deep discussions. I’d like to meet with those who have ideas that are different — they think are better. I welcome those ideas.
But the rest of the world is not waiting for us. I just want to be clear: From my perspective, doing nothing is not an option. (Applause.)
Look, we can’t be so busy competing with one another that we forget the competition that we have with the rest of the world to win the 21st century.
Secretary Blinken can tell you, I spent a lot of time with President Xi — traveled over 17,000 miles with him; spent, they tell me, over 24 hours in private discussions with him. When he called to congratulate me, we had a two-hour discussion. He’s deadly earnest about becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world. He and others — autocrats — think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st century with autocracies because it takes too long to get consensus.
To win that competition for the future, in my view, we also need to make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families and our children. That’s why I’ve introduced the American Families Plan tonight, which addresses four of the biggest challenges facing American families and, in turn, America.
First is access to a good education. When this nation made 12 years of public education universal in the last century, it made us the best-educated, best-prepared nation in the world. It’s, I believe, the overwhelming reason that propelled us to where we got in the 21st — in the 20th century.
But the world has caught up, or catching up. They are not waiting. I would say, parenthetically: If we were sitting down, put a bipartisan committee together and said, “Okay, we’re going to decide what we do in terms of government providing for free education,” I wonder whether we’d think, as we did in the 20th century, that 12 years is enough in the 21st century. I doubt it. Twelve years is no longer enough today to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st Century.
That’s why my American Families Plan guarantees four additional years of public education for every person in America, starting as early as we can.
The great universities of this country have conducted studies over the last 10 years. It shows that adding two years of universal high-quality preschool for every three-year-old and four-year-old, no matter what background they come from, it puts them in the position to be able to compete all the way through 12 years. It increases exponentially their prospect of graduating and going on beyond graduation.
The research shows when a young child goes to school — not daycare — they are far more likely to graduate from high school and go to college or something after high school.
When you add two years of free community college on top of that, you begin to change the dynamic. (Applause.) We can do that. (Applause.)
And we’ll increase Pell Grants and invest in Historical Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges, Minority-Serving Institutions. The reason is: They don’t have the endowments, but their students are just as capable of learning about cybersecurity, just as capable of learning about metallurgy — all the things that are going on that provide those jobs of the future.
Jill was a community college professor who teaches today as First Lady. She has long said — (applause). She has long — (applause). If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “Joe, any country that out-educates us is going to outcompete us.” She’ll be deeply involved in leading this effort. Thank you, Jill.
Second thing we need: American Families Plan will provide access to quality, affordable childcare. We guarantee — (applause). And I’m proposing a legislation to guarantee that low- and middle-income families will pay no more than 7 percent of their income for high-quality care for children up to the age of 5. The most hard-pressed working families won’t have to spend a dime.
Third, the American Families Plan will finally provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave and medical leave — family and medical leave. We’re one of the few industrial countries in the world — (applause).
No one should have to choose between a job and paycheck or taking care of themselves and their loved ones –- a parent, a spouse, or child.
And fourth, the American Family Plan puts directly into the pockets of millions of Americans. In March, we expanded a tax credit for every child in a family. Up to a $3,000 per child, if they’re under six years of age — I mean, excuse me — under six years of age, and $3,600 for children over six years of age.
With two parents, two kids, that’s $7,200 in the pockets that’s going to help to take care of your family. And that will help more than 65 million children and help cut [child] poverty in half. (Applause.) And we can afford it.
So we did that in the last piece of legislation we passed. But let’s extend that Child Care Tax Credit at least through the end of 2025. (Applause.)
The American Rescue Plan lowered healthcare premiums for 9 million Americans who buy their coverage under the Affordable Care Act. I know that’s really popular on this side of the aisle. (Laughter.) But let’s make that provision permanent so their premiums don’t go back up. (Applause.)
In addition to my Families Plan, I’m going to work with Congress to address, this year, other critical priorities for American families.
The Affordable Care Act has been a lifeline for millions of Americans, protecting people with preexisting conditions, protecting women’s health. And the pandemic has demonstrated how badly — how badly it’s needed. Let’s lower deductibles for working families on the Affordable Care — in the Affordable Care Act. (Applause.) And let’s lower prescription drug costs. (Applause.)
We know how to do this. The last President had that as an objective. We all know how outrageously expensive drugs are in America.
In fact, we pay the highest prescription drug prices of anywhere in the world right here in America — nearly three times — for the same drug, nearly three times what other countries pay. We have to change that, and we can.
Let’s do what we’ve always talked about for all the years I was down here in this — in this body — in Congress. Let’s give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower drug prescription prices. (Applause.)
And, by the way, that won’t just — that won’t just help people on Medicare; it will lower prescription drug costs for everyone.
And the money we save, which is billions of dollars, can go to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicare coverage benefits without costing taxpayers an additional penny. It’s within our power to do it; let’s do it now. (Applause.)
We’ve talked about it long enough. Democrats and Republicans, let’s get it done this year. This is all about a simple premise: Healthcare should be a right, not a privilege in America. (Applause.)
So, how do we pay for my Jobs and Family Plan? I made it clear, we can do it without increasing the deficits. Let’s start with what I will not do: I will not impose any tax increase on people making less than $400,000. It’s — but it’s time for corporate America and the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans to just begin to pay their fair share. (Applause.) Just their fair share.
Sometimes I have arguments with my friends in the Democratic Party. I think you should be able to become a billionaire and a millionaire, but pay your fair share.
A recent study shows that 55 of the nation’s biggest corporations paid zero federal tax last year. Those 55 corporations made in excess of $40 billion in profit. A lot of companies also evade taxes through tax havens in Switzerland and Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. And they benefit from tax loopholes and deductions for offshoring jobs and shifting profits overseas. It’s not right.
We’re going to reform corporate taxes so they pay their fair share and help pay for the public investments their businesses will benefit from as well. (Applause.)
We’re going to reward work, not just wealth. We take the top tax bracket for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans — those making over $400,000 or more — back up to where it was when George W. Bush was President when he started: 39.6 percent. That’s where it was when George W. was President.
We’re going to get rid of the loopholes that allow Americans who make more than a million dollars a year and pay a lower tax rate on their capital gains than Americans who receive a paycheck.We’re only going to affect three tenths of 1 percent of all Americans by that action. Three tenths of 1 percent.
And the IRS is going to crack down on millionaires and billionaires who cheat on their taxes. It’s estimated to be billions of dollars by think tanks that are left, right, and center.
I’m not looking to punish anybody. But I will not add a tax burden — an additional tax burden to the middle class in this country. They’re already paying enough. I believe what I propose is fair — (applause) — fiscally responsible, and it raises revenue to pay for the plans I have proposed, and will create millions of jobs that will grow the economy and enhance our financial standing in the country.
When you hear someone say that they don’t want to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent or corporate America, ask them: “Whose taxes you want to raise instead? Whose are you going to cut?”
Look, the big tax cut of 2017 — remember, it was supposed to pay for itself — that was how it was sold — and generate vast economic growth. Instead, it added $2 trillion to the deficit. It was a huge windfall for corporate America and those at the very top.
Instead of using the tax saving to raise wages and invest in research and development, it poured billions of dollars into the pockets of CEOs. In fact, the pay gap between CEOs and their workers is now among the largest in history.
According to one study, CEOs make 320 times what the average worker in their corporation makes. It used to be in the — below a hundred.
The pandemic has only made things worse. Twenty million Americans lost their job in the pandemic — working- and middle-class Americans. At the same time, roughly 650 billionaires in America saw their net worth increase by more than $1 trillion — in the same exact period. Let me say it again: 650 people increased their wealth by more than $1 trillion during this pandemic. And they’re now worth more than $4 trillion.
My fellow Americans, trickle-down — trickle-down economics has never worked and it’s time to grow the economy from the bottom and the middle out. (Applause.)
You know, there’s a broad consensus of economists — left, right, center — and they agree what I’m proposing will help create millions of jobs and generate historic economic growth. These are among the highest-value investments we can make as a nation.
I’ve often said: Our greatest strength is the power of our example, not just the example of our power.
In my conversations with world leaders — and I’ve spoken to over 38, 40 of them now — I’ve made it known — I’ve made it known that America is back. And you know what they say? The comment that I hear most of all from them is they say, “We see America is back but for how long? But for how long?”
My fellow Americans, we have to show not just that we’re back, but that we’re back to stay and that we aren’t going to go it alone. (Applause.) We’re going to do it by leading with our allies. (Applause.)
No one nation can deal with all the crises of our time — from terrorism, to nuclear proliferation, mass migration, cybersecurity, climate change, as well as experi- — what we’re experiencing now with pandemics.
There’s no wall high enough to keep any virus out. And our own vaccine supply — as it grows to meet our needs; and we’re meeting them — will become an arsenal of vaccines for other countries, just as America was the arsenal of democracy for the world — (applause) — and in consequence, influenced the world. (Applause.)
But every American will have access before that occur- — every American will have access to be fully covered by COVID-19 — from the vaccines we have.
Look, the climate crisis is not our fight alone; it’s a global fight. The United States accounts, as all of you know, less than 15 percent of carbon emissions. The rest of the world accounts for 85 percent. That’s why I kept my commitment to rejoin the Paris Accord — because if we do everything perfectly, it’s not going to ultimately matter.
I kept my commitment to convene a climate summit right here in America with all of the major economies of the world — China, Russia, India, the European Union — and I said I’d do it in my first 100 days.
I want to be very blunt about it: I had — my attempt was to make sure that the world could see there was a consensus, that we are at an inflection point in history. And consensus — the consensus is: If we act to save the planet, we can create millions of jobs and economic growth and opportunity to raise the standard of living to almost everyone around the world.
If you’ve watched any of it — and you were all busy; I’m sure you didn’t have much time — that’s what virtually every nation said, even the ones that aren’t doing their fair share.
The investments I’ve proposed tonight also advance the foreign policy, in my view, that benefits the middle class. That means making sure every nation plays by the same rules in the global economy, including China.
In my discussions — in my discussions with President Xi, I told him, “We welcome the competition.We’re not looking for conflict.” But I made absolutely clear that we will defend America’s interests across the board.America will stand up to unfair trade practices that undercut American workers and American industries, like subsidies from state — to state-owned operations and enterprises and the theft of American technology and intellectual property.
I also told President Xi that we’ll maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific, just as we do with NATO in Europe — not to start a conflict, but to prevent one. (Applause.)
I told him what I’ve said to many world leaders: that America will not back away from our commitments — our commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms and to our alliances.
And I pointed out to him: No responsible American President could remain silent when basic human rights are being so blatantly violated. An American President — President has to represent the essence of what our country stands for. America is an idea — the most unique idea in history: We are created, all of us, equal. It’s who we are, and we cannot walk away from that principle and, in fact, say we’re dealing with the American idea.
With regard to Russia, I know it concerns some of you, but I made very clear to Putin that we’re not going to seek escalation, but their actions will have consequence if they turn out to be true. And they turned out to be true, so I responded directly and proportionally to Russia’s interference in our elections and the cyberattacks on our government and our business. They did both of these things, and I told them we would respond, and we have.
But we can also cooperate when it’s in our mutual interest. We did it when we extended the New START Treaty on nuclear arms, and we’re working to do it on climate change. But he understands we will respond.
On Iran and North Korea — nuclear programs that present serious threats to American security and the security of the world — we’re going to be working closely with our allies to address the threats posed by both of these countriesthrough diplomacy, as well as stern deterrence.
And American leadership means ending the forever war in Afghanistan. (Applause.) We have — (applause) — we have, without hyperbole, the greatest fighting force in the history of the world. I’m the first President in 40 years who knows what it means to have a son serving in a warzone.
Today we have servicemembers serving in the same warzone as their parents did. We have servicemembers in Afghanistan who were not yet born on 9/11.
The War in Afghanistan, as we remember the debates here, were never meant to be multi-generational undertakings of nation-building. We went to Afghanistan to get terrorists — the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 — and we said we would follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell to do it. If you’ve been to the upper Kunar Valley, you’ve kind of seen the gates of hell. And we delivered justice to bin Laden. We degraded the terrorist threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. And after 20 years of value — valor and sacrifice, it’s time to bring those troops home. (Applause.)
Look, even as we do, we will maintain an over-the-horizon capacity to suppress future threats to the homeland. And make no mistake: In 20 years, terrorists has — terrorism has metastasized. The threat has evolved way beyond Afghanistan. And those of you in the intelligence committees, the foreign relations committee, the defense committees, you know well: We have to remain vigilant against the threats to the United States wherever they come from. Al Qaeda and ISIS are in Yemen, Syria, Somalia, other places in Africa, the Middle East, and beyond.
And we won’t ignore what our intelligence agencies have determined to be the most lethal terrorist threat to the homeland today: White supremacy is terrorism. We’re not going to ignore that either.
My fellow Americans, look, we have to come together to heal the soul of this nation. It was nearly a year ago, before her father’s funeral, when I spoke with Gianna Floyd, George Floyd’s young daughter. She’s a little tyke, so I was kneeling down to talk to her so I could look her in the eye. And she looked at me and she said, “My daddy changed the world.” Well, after the conviction of George Floyd’s murderer, we can see how right she was if — if we have the courage to act as a Congress.
We’ve all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black Americans.Now is our opportunity to make some real progress. The vast majority of men and women wearing the uniform and a badge serve our communities, and they serve them honorably. I know them. I know they want — (applause) — I know they want to help meet this moment as well.
My fellow Americans, we have to come together to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the people they serve, to root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system, and to enact police reform in George Floyd’s name that passed the House already.
I know Republicans have their own ideas and are engaged in the very productive discussions with Democrats in the Senate. We need to work together to find a consensus. But let’s get it done next month, by the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death. (Applause.)
The country supports this reform, and Congress should act — should act. We have a giant opportunity to bend to the arc of the moral universe towards justice — real justice. And with the plans outlined tonight, we have a real chance to root out systemic racism that plagues America and American lives in other ways; a chance to deliver real equity — good jobs, good schools, affordable housing, clean air, clean water, being able to generate wealth and pass it down two generations because you have an access to purchase a house. Real opportunities in the lives of more Americans — Black, white, Latino, Asian Americans, Native Americans.
Look, I also want to thank the United States Senate for voting 94 to 1 to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to protect Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. (Applause.) You acted decisively. (Applause.) And you can see on television the viciousness of the hate crimes we’ve seen over the past year — this past year and for too long. I urge the House to do the same and send that legislation to my desk, which I will gladly, anxiously sign.
I also hope Congress can get to my desk the Equality Act to protect LGBTQ Americans. (Applause.) To all transgender Americans watching at home, especially young people who are so brave, I want you to know your President has your back.
Another thing: Let’s authorize the Violence Against Women Act, which has been law for 27 years. (Applause.) Twenty-seven years ago, I wrote it. It’ll close the — the act that has to be authorized now will close the “boyfriend” loophole to keep guns out of the hands of abusers. The court order said, “This is an abuser. You can’t own a gun.” It’s to close that loophole that existed.
You know, it’s estimated that 50 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month in America — 50 a month.Let’s pass it and save some lives. (Applause.)
And I need not — I need not tell anyone this, but gun violence is becoming an epidemic in America.
The flag at the White House was still flying at half-mast for the 8 victims in the mass shooting in Georgia when 10 more lives were taken in a mass shooting in Colorado.
And in the week in between those two events, 250 other Americans were shot dead in the streets of America — 250 shot dead.
I know how hard it is to make progress on this issue. In the ’90s, we passed universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that hold 100 rounds that can be fired off in seconds. We beat the NRA. Mass shootings and gun violence declined. Check out the report in over 10 years. But in the early twe- — 2000s, the law expired, and we’ve seen daily bloodshed since. I’m not saying if the law continued, we wouldn’t see bloodshed.
More than two weeks ago in the Rose Garden, surrounded by some of the bravest people I know — the survivors and families who lost loved ones to gun violence — I laid out several of the Department of Justice a- — actions that are being taken to — impact on this epidemic.
One of them is banning so-called “ghost guns.” These are homemade guns built from a kit that includes directions on how to finish the firearm. The parts have no serial numbers, so they show up at crime scenes and they can’t be traced. The buyers of these ghost gun kits aren’t required to pass any background check. Anyone, from a criminal or terrorist, could buy this kit and within 30 minutes have a weapon that’s lethal. But no more.
And I will do everything in my power to protect the American people from this epidemic of gun violence, but it’s time for Congress to act as well. (Applause.)
Look, I don’t want to become confrontational but we need more Senate Republicans to join the overwhelming majority of Democrat colleagues and close the loopholes requiring a background check on purchases of guns. We need a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And don’t tell me it can’t be done. We did it before, and it worked.
Talk to most responsible gun owners and hunters. They’ll tell you there’s no possible justification for having 100 rounds in a weapon. What do you think — deer are wearing Kevlar vests? (Laughter.) They’ll tell you that there are too many people today who are able to buy a gun but shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.
These kinds of reasonable reforms have overwhelming support from the American people, including many gun owners. The country supports reform and is — and Congress should act.
This shouldn’t be a red or blue issue. And no amendment to the Constitution is absolute. You can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. From the very beginning, there were certain guns, weapons, that could not be owned by Americans. Certain people could not own those weapons ever.
We’re not changing the Constitution; we’re being reasonable. I think this is not a Democrat or Republican issue; I think it’s an American issue.
And here’s what else we can do: Immigration has always been essential to America. Let’s end our exhausting war over immigration. For more than 30 years, politicians have talked about immigration reform, and we’ve done nothing about it. It’s time to fix it.
On day one of my presidency, I kept my commitment and sent a comprehensive immigration bill to the United States Congress. If you believe we need to secure the border, pass it, because it has a lot of money for high-tech border security. If you believe in a pathway to citizenship, pass it so over 11 million undocumented folks — the vast majority are here overstaying visas. Pass it. We can actually — if you actually want to solve a problem, I’ve sent a bill to take a close look at it.
We have to — also have to get at the root problem of why people are fleeing, particularly to — to our southern border from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador: the violence, the corruption, the gangs, and the political instability, hunger, hurricanes, earthquakes, natural disasters.
When I was President, my President — when I was Vice President, the President asked me to focus on providing the help needed to address the root causes of migration. And it helped keep people in their own countries instead of being forced to leave. The plan was working, but the last administration decided it was not worth it.
I’m restoring the program and asked Vice President Harris to lead our diplomatic effort to take care of this. I have absolute confidence she’ll get the job done. (Applause.)
Now, look, if you don’t like my plan, let’s at least pass what we all agree on. Congress needs to pass legislation this year to finally secure protection for DREAMers — the young people who have only known America as their home. (Applause.)
And permanent protection for immigrants who are here on temporary protected status who came from countries beset by manmade and natural-made violence and disaster. (Applause.)
As well as a pathway to citizenship for farmworkers who put food on our tables. (Applause.)
Look, immigrants have done so much for America during this pandemic and throughout our history. The country supports immigration reform. We should act. Let’s argue over it, let’s debate it, but let’s act. (Applause.)
And if we truly want to restore the soul of America, we need to protect the sacred right to vote. Most people — (applause).
More people voted in the last presidential election than any time in American history, in the middle of the worst pandemic ever. It should be celebrated. Instead, it’s being attacked.
Congress should pass H.R. 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and send it to my desk right away. (Applause.) The country supports it. The Congress should act now. (Applause.)
Look, in closing, as we gather here tonight, the images of a violent mob assaulting this Capitol, desecrating our democracy, remain vivid in all our minds.
Lives were put at risk — many of your lives. Lives were lost. Extraordinary courage was summoned. The insurrection was an existential crisis –- a test of whether our democracy could survive. And it did.
But the struggle is far from over. The question of whether our democracy will long endure is both ancient and urgent, as old as our Republic — still vital today.
Can our democracy deliver on its promise that all of us, created equal in the image of God, have a chance to lead lives of dignity, respect, and possibility?
Can our democracy deliver the most — to the most pressing needs of our people?
Can our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate, and fears that have pulled us apart?
America’s adversaries –- the autocrats of the world –- are betting we can’t. And I promise you, they’re betting we can’t. They believe we’re too full of anger and division and rage.
They look at the images of the mob that assaulted the Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on American democracy. But they are wrong. You know it; I know it. But we have to prove them wrong.
We have to prove democracy still works — that our government still works and we can deliver for our people.
In our first 100 days together, we have acted to restore the people’s faith in democracy to deliver. We’re vaccinating the nation. We’re creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs. We’re delivering real results to people; they can see it and feel it in their own lives.
Opening doors of opportunity, guaranteeing some more fairness and justice — that’s the essence of America. That’s democracy in action.
Our Constitution opens with the words — as trite as it sounds — “We the People”. Well, it’s time to remember that “We the People” are the government — you and I. Not some force in a distant capital. Not some powerful force that we have no control over. It’s us. It’s “We the People.”
In another era when our democracy was tested, Franklin Roosevelt reminded us, “In America, we do our part.” We all do our part. That’s all I’m asking: that we do our part, all of us.
If we do that, we will meet the center challenge of the age by proving that democracy is durable and strong. Autocrats will not win the future. We will. America will. And the future belongs to America.
As I stand here tonight before you, in a new and vital hour of life and democracy of our nation, and I can say with absolute confidence: I have never been more confident or optimistic about America — not because I’m President, because what’s happening with the American people.
We have stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy, pandemic and pain, and “We the People” did not flinch.
At the very moment our adversaries were certain we would pull apart and fail, we came together. We united.
With light and hope, we summoned a new strength, new resolve to position us to win the competition of the 21st century, on our way to a union more perfect, more prosperous, and more just, as one people, one nation, and one America.
Folks, as I told every world leader I’ve ever met with over the years, it’s never ever, ever been a good bet to bet against America, and it still isn’t. (Applause.)
We are the United States of America. (Applause.) There is not a single thing — nothing — nothing beyond our capacity. We can do whatever we set our mind to do if we do it together. (Applause.) So let’s begin to get together. (Applause.)
God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you for your patience. (Applause.)
On a day marking the anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, an event that so outraged Americans it led ultimately to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, President Joe Biden addressed the unity breakfast named after Dr. and Mrs. King and announced that he had signed an Executive Order “to make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote and improve access to voting.”
President Biden declared, “Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted. If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.” Here is the text of his remarks and the details of his Executive Order:
I know this is the first commemoration of Bloody Sunday without Reverend C.T. Vivian, Reverend Joseph Lowery, and Congressman John Lewis. Preachers of the social gospel. Architects of the ‘Beloved Community,’ they built not only with words but with action. And reminders that in our lifetime, for Black Americans, the fundamental right to vote has been denied by white supremacy hiding both behind white hoods and in plain sight in state houses and courtrooms.
Yet those torches and burning crosses, the batons, tear gas, fire hoses, attack dogs, and unfair laws and trials could not stop progress. The blood of John Lewis and hundreds of other brave and righteous souls that was spilled in Selma, on this Sunday in 1965 sanctified a noble struggle.
And when the country saw those images that night, America was forced to confront the denial of democracy — the fierce urgency of justice.
Congress passed the Voting Rights Act a few months later, and President Johnson signed it into law.
The legacy of the march in Selma is that while nothing can stop a free people from exercising their most sacred power as a citizen, there are those who will do everything they can to take that power away.
The Voting Rights Act began to dismantle barriers to voting and to make our elections more fair, free, and representative.
I was always proud to lead the efforts to reauthorize it over the years as a U.S. Senator in the Judiciary Committee. But at the same time, Republicans at every level have chipped away at it.
Then in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, holding that times have changed and blatant voter discrimination was rare, contrary to the assault that was taking place on the ground. The late Justice Ginsburg wrote that the decision was like “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm.” Today, we have a hail storm, not a rain storm.
And in 2020, our very democracy on the line, even in the midst of a pandemic, more Americans voted than ever before. Multiple recounts in states and decisions in more than 60 courts – from judges appointed by my predecessor, including at the Supreme Court – upheld the integrity of this historic election.
Yet instead of celebrating this powerful demonstration of voting – we have seen an unprecedented insurrection in our Capitol and a brutal attack on our democracy on January 6th. A never before seen effort to ignore, undermine, and undo the will of the people.
And to think that it’s been followed by an all-out assault on the right to vote in state legislatures all across the country happening right now. During the current legislative session, elected officials in 43 states have already introduced more than 250 bills to make it harder for Americans to vote. We cannot let them succeed.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021. This is a landmark piece of legislation that is urgently needed to protect the right to vote, the integrity of our elections, and to repair and strengthen our democracy. I hope the Senate does its work so that I can sign it into law.
I also urge Congress to fully restore the Voting Rights Act, named in John Lewis’ honor.
Today, on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I am signing an executive order to make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote and improve access to voting. Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted. If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.
I’ll close with this – a few days before he passed, Jill and I spoke with John, Congressman Lewis.
But instead of answering our concerns about him, “how are you doing, John,” he asked us to stay focused on the work left undone to heal and to unite this nation around what it means to be an American.
That’s the God’s truth. John wouldn’t talk about his pending death or his concerns. He said we just got to get this done.
That we are all created equal. That we all deserve to be treated equally.
On this day of reflection, please, let’s stay focused on the work ahead.
Let’s remember all those who came before us as a bridge to our history so we do not forget its pain, and as a bridge to our future so we never lose our hope.
May God bless their memory. May God bless you all.
FACT SHEET: President Biden to Sign Executive Order to Promote Voting Access
On this day in 1965, state troopers beat and tear-gassed hundreds of peaceful protestors crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The protestors were seeking justice and to ensure their right to vote would not be denied. At the head of the march were former Congressman John Lewis and Rev. Hosea Williams. As the troopers advanced with clubs raised, the group knelt in prayer. The images of protestors, bloody and bruised, flashing on television screens across the nation spurred Congress to pass, and President Johnson to sign into law, the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Congressman Lewis’ fight to protect and expand the vote did not end that day in Selma. He carried the mission to our nation’s Capital and remained a vigilant protector of our right to vote, knowing all too well the burdens borne to guarantee it.
Today, to mark the 56th anniversary of Selma with actions and not just words, President Biden will sign an Executive Order to promote voting access and allow all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy. This Executive Order will leverage the resources of the federal government to increase access to voter registration services and information about voting.
As the President has said, democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend, strengthen, and renew it. Free and fair elections that reflect the will of the American people must be protected and defended. Too many Americans face significant obstacles to exercising their fundamental right to vote. For generations, Black voters and other voters of color have faced discriminatory policies that suppress their vote. Voters of color are more likely to face long lines at the polls and are disproportionately burdened by voter identification laws and limited opportunities to vote by mail. Native Americans likewise face limited opportunities to vote by mail and frequently lack sufficient polling places and voter registration opportunities near their homes. Limited access to language assistance is an obstacle for many voters. People with disabilities face longstanding barriers in exercising their right to vote, especially when it comes to legally required accommodations to vote privately and independently. Members of our military serving overseas, as well as other American citizens living abroad, also face unnecessary challenges to exercising their right to vote.
Today’s Executive Order is an initial step in this Administration’s efforts to protect the right to vote and ensure all eligible citizens can freely participate in the electoral process. The President is committed to working with Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act and pass H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which includes bold reforms to make it more equitable and accessible for all Americans to exercise their fundamental right to vote.
Today’s Executive Order will:
Direct federal agencies to expand access to voter registration and election information. The executive order will direct the head of each federal agency to submit to the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy a strategic plan outlining ways their agency can promote voter registration and participation within 200 days. These strategic plans could include actions such as:
Leveraging agencies’ existing websites and social media to provide information about how to register to vote
Distributing voter registration and vote-by-mail ballot applications in the course of regular services
Considering whether any identity documents issued by the agency can be issued in a form that satisfies state voter identification laws
And, the Federal Chief Information Officer of the United States will coordinate across federal agencies to improve or modernize federal websites and digital services that provide election and voting information to the American people, including ensuring that federal websites are accessible to individuals with disabilities and people with limited English proficiency.
Direct federal agencies to assist states under the National Voter Registration Act. Today’s Executive Order reaffirms the intent of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 to have federal agencies assist with voter registration efforts. Since the NVRA was enacted, state government agencies, like a department of motor vehicles, have helped register hundreds of millions of voters. Unlike state agencies, however, federal agencies can only become voter registration agencies under the NVRA at a state’s request. Federal agencies providing direct services to underserved communities represent a unique opportunity to provide access to voter registration services. Under today’s action, the head of each federal agency will evaluate where and how the federal agency provides services that directly engage with the public, and to the greatest extent possible, formally notify states in which it provides services that it would agree to designation as a voter registration agency. If requested by a state to be designated as a voter registration agency, the federal agency shall to the greatest extent possible agree to such designation.
Improve and modernize Vote.gov. The Executive Order will direct the General Services Administration (GSA) to submit to the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy a strategic plan outlining steps to modernize and improve the user experience of the federal government’s premier source of voting-related information, Vote.gov, including the accessibility of the website within 200 days. The order requires GSA to seek the input of affected stakeholders, including election administrators, civil rights and disability rights activists, Tribal Nations, and nonprofit groups that study best practices for using technology to promote civic engagement.
Increase federal employees’ access to voting. The Executive Order will direct the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to work with the head of federal agencies to provide recommendations to the President regarding leave for federal employees to vote or to volunteer as nonpartisan poll workers, ensuring that the federal government serves as a model to other employers.
Analyze barriers to voting for people with disabilities. The Executive Order will direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) within the Department of Commerce to evaluate and publish recommendations on the steps needed to ensure that the online Federal Voter Registration Form is accessible to people with disabilities within 200 days. The order directs NIST—in consultation with the Department of Justice, the Election Assistance Commission, and other agencies—to analyze barriers to private and independent voting for people with disabilities, including access to voter registration, voting technology, voting by mail, polling locations, and poll worker training.
Increase voting access for active duty military and other overseas voters. The executive order will direct the Secretary of Defense within 200 days to establish procedures to annually offer each member of the Armed Forces on active duty the opportunity to register to vote in federal elections, update voter registration, or request an absentee ballot. Additionally, the Secretary of Defense—in coordination with the Department of State, the Military Postal Service Agency and United States Postal Service—is required to submit a strategic plan for an end-to-end ballot tracking system for overseas ballots. And, the head of each federal agency with overseas employees is directed to designate a point of contact to coordinate with the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) and promote voter registration and voting services available to these employees.
Provide voting access and education to citizens in federal custody. The order will direct the Attorney General to establish procedures to provide educational materials related to voter registration and voting, and to the extent practicable, to facilitate voter registration, for all eligible individuals in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. It also directs the Attorney General to coordinate with the Probation and Pretrial Services Office to develop similar procedures for eligible individuals under its supervision. The Executive Order also directs the Attorney General to establish procedures to ensure the U.S. Marshals Service includes language in jail contracts to provide eligible individuals educational materials related to voter registration and voting, and to facilitate voting by mail, to the extent practicable and appropriate. And, it directs the Attorney General to take steps to support formerly incarcerated individuals in obtaining a means of identification that satisfies state voter identification laws.
Establish a Native American voting rights steering group. The order will establish an interagency steering group on Native American voting rights to be coordinated by the Domestic Policy Council. The steering group will include, at a minimum, the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs or their designees. The steering group will study best practices, in consultation with Tribal Nations, for protecting voting rights of Native Americans and will produce a report within one year of the date of the order outlining recommendations for increasing voter outreach, education, registration, and turnout in Native American communities.
Joe Biden officially became President-Elect with the conclusion of the Electoral College vote cementing Joe Biden’s victory with 306 votes to Donald Trump’s 232. After weeks of keeping silent as the Trump campaign brought 60 lawsuits in the hopes of the Supreme Court ultimately declaring Trump the winner, Biden delivered a rebuke of the efforts by Trump and the Republicans to overturn the election, as notable for the most votes cast in history and the most votes won by a candidate in history, by disenfranchising millions of voters, mostly Black, but declared democracy “resilient, true and strong.”
“In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant power to them,” Biden declared.
He attacked the unprecedented, relentless but baseless court challenges, culminating in Texas seeking to overturn the results in four swing states, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia to “wipe out the votes of more than 20 million Americans in other states and to hand the presidency to a candidate who lost the Electoral College, lost the popular vote, and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse.
“It’s a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before. A position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honor our Constitution. Thankfully, a unanimous Supreme Court immediately and completely rejected this effort…
“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed. We the People voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact. Now it is time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history.”
Here is a highlighted transcript of his remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Good evening, my fellow Americans.
Over the past few weeks, officials in each state, commonwealth, and district, without regard to party or political preference have certified their winning candidate.
Today, the members of the Electoral College representing the certified winner, cast their votes for President and Vice President of the United States in an act just as old as our nation itself.
And once again in America, the rule of law, our Constitution, and the will of the people have prevailed.
Our democracy — pushed, tested, threatened — proved to be resilient, true, and strong.
The Electoral College votes which occurred today reflect the fact that even in the face of a public health crisis unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes, the people voted.
They voted in record numbers. More Americans voted this year than have ever voted in the history of the United States of America. Over 155 million Americans were determined to have their voices heard and their votes counted.
At the start of the pandemic crisis, many were wondering how many Americans would vote at all. But those fears proved to be unfounded.
We saw something very few predicted or even thought possible — the biggest voter turnout ever in the history of the United States of America.
Numbers so big that this election now ranks as the clearest demonstration of the true will of the American people — one of the most amazing demonstrations of civic duty we’ve ever seen in our country.
It should be celebrated, not attacked.
More than 81 million of those votes were cast for me and Vice President-elect Harris.
This too is a record number. More votes than any ticket has received in the history of America.
It represented a winning margin of more than 7 million votes over the number of votes cast for President Trump and Vice President Pence.
Altogether, Vice President-elect Harris and I earned 306 electoral votes — well exceeding the 270 electoral votes needed to secure victory.
306 electoral votes is the same number of electoral votes Donald Trump and Mike Pence received in 2016.
At that time, President Trump called his Electoral College tally a landslide.
By his own standards, these numbers represented a clear victory then.
And I respectfully suggest they do so now.
If anyone didn’t know it before, they know it now.
What beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this: Democracy.
The right to be heard.
To have your vote counted.
To choose the leaders of this nation.
To govern ourselves.
In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant power to them.
The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.
And as the people kept it aflame, so, too did courageous state and local officials and election workers.
American democracy works because Americans make it work at the local level.
One of the extraordinary things we saw this year was these everyday Americans — our friends and neighbors, often volunteers, Democrats and Republicans and Independents — demonstrating absolute courage. They showed a deep and unwavering faith in and a commitment to the law.
They did their duty in the face of a pandemic.
And then they could not and would not give credence to what they knew was not true.
They knew the elections they oversaw were honest and free and fair.
They saw it with their own eyes.
And they wouldn’t be bullied into saying anything different.
It was truly remarkable because so many of these patriotic Americans were subjected to so much: enormous political pressure, verbal abuse, and even threats of physical violence.
While we all wish that our fellow Americans in these positions will always show such courage and commitment to free and fair elections, I hope we never again see anyone subjected to the kind of threats and abuse we saw in this election.
It is unconscionable.
We owe these public servants a debt of gratitude. They didn’t seek the spotlight, and our democracy survived because of them.
Which is proof once more that it’s the everyday American — infused with honor and character and decency — that is the heart of this nation.
And in this election, their integrity was matched by the strength, independence, and the integrity of our judicial system.
In America, when questions are raised about the legitimacy of any election, those questions are resolved through a legal process.
And that is precisely what happened here.
The Trump campaign brought dozens and dozens and dozens of legal challenges to test the results.
They were heard. And they were found to be without merit.
Time and again, President Trump’s lawyers presented their arguments to state officials, state legislatures, state and federal courts, and ultimately to the United States Supreme Court, twice.
They were heard by more than 80 judges across the country.
And in every case, no cause or evidence was found to reverse or question or dispute the results.
A few states went to recounts. All of the counts were confirmed.
The results in Georgia were counted three times. It did not change the outcome.
The recount conducted in Wisconsin actually saw our margin grow.
The margin we had in Michigan was fourteen times the margin President Trump won the state by four years ago.
Our margin in Pennsylvania was nearly twice the size of President Trump’s margin four years ago.
And yet none of this has stopped baseless claims about the legitimacy of the results.
Even more stunning, 17 Republican Attorneys General and 126 Republican Members of Congress actually signed on to a lawsuit filed by the State of Texas. It asked the United States Supreme Court to reject the certified vote counts in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
This legal maneuver was an effort by elected officials in one group of states to try to get the Supreme Court to wipe out the votes of more than twenty million Americans in other states and to hand the presidency to a candidate who lost the Electoral College, lost the popular vote, and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse.
It’s a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before. A position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honor our Constitution.
Thankfully, a unanimous Supreme Court immediately and completely rejected this effort.
The Court sent a clear signal to President Trump and his allies that they would be no part of this unprecedented assault on our democracy.
Every avenue was made available to President Trump to contest the results.
He took full advantage of each and every one of these avenues.
President Trump was denied no course of action he wanted to take.
He took his case to Republican Governors and Republican Secretaries of State. To Republican state legislatures. To Republican-appointed judges at every level.
And in a case decided after the Supreme Court’s latest rejection, a judge appointed by President Trump wrote: “This court has allowed the plaintiff the chance to make his case, and he has lost on the merits.”
Even President Trump’s own cybersecurity chief overseeing our elections said it was the most secure in American history.
Let me say it again, his own cybersecurity chief overseeing this election said it was the most secure in American history.
Respecting the will of the people is at the heart of our democracy — even when we find those results hard to accept.
But that is the obligation of those who have taken a sworn duty to uphold our Constitution.
Four years ago, as the sitting Vice President of the United States, it was my responsibility to announce the tally of the Electoral College votes that elected Donald Trump.
I did my job.
And I am pleased — but not surprised — that a number of my former Republican colleagues in the Senate have acknowledged the results of the Electoral College.
I thank them. I am convinced we can work together for the good of the nation.
That is the duty owed to the people, to our Constitution, and to history.
In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed.
We the People voted.
Faith in our institutions held.
The integrity of our elections remains intact.
Now it is time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history.
To unite. To heal.
As I said through this campaign, I will be a president for all Americans.
I will work just as hard for those of you who didn’t vote for me, as I will for those who did.
There is urgent work in front of us all.
Getting the pandemic under control and getting the nation vaccinated against this virus.
Delivering immediate economic help so badly needed by so many Americans who are hurting today — and then building our economy back better than ever.
In doing so, we need to work together, give each other a chance, and lower the temperature.
And most of all, we need to stand in solidarity as fellow Americans. To see each other, our pains, our struggles, our hopes, our dreams.
We are a great nation.
We are a good people.
We may come from different places and hold different beliefs, but we share a love for this country. A belief in its limitless possibilities.
For we, the United States of America, have always set the example for the world for the peaceful transition of power.
We will do so again.
I know the task before us will not be easy.
It’s tempered by the pain so many of us are feeling.
Today, our nation passed a grim milestone, 300,000 deaths due to this virus.
My heart goes out to all of you in this dark winter of the pandemic about to spend the holidays and the new year with a black hole in your hearts and without the ones you love by your side.
My heart goes out to all of you who have fallen on hard times through no fault of your own, unable to sleep at night, weighed down with the worry of what tomorrow will bring for you and for your family.
But we have faced difficult times before in our history.
And I know we will get through this one, together.
And so, as we start the hard work to be done, may this moment give us the strength to rebuild this house of ours upon a rock that can never be washed away.
And as in the Prayer of St. Francis, for where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith, where there is darkness, light.
This is who we are as a nation.
This is the America we love.
And that is the America we will be.
May God bless you all.
May God protect our troops and all those who stand watch over our democracy.
chants of “No More Cover-Ups. We Want Witnesses” and “What do we want?
Witnesses. If we don’t get it, Shut It Down,” protesters took to the streets in
New York City as well as Washington DC and 30 other cities to demand Senators
uphold their oath for an impartial examination of the truth before a vote to
convict or acquit Donald Trump of his office as President of the United States.
New York, a couple of hundred protesters organized by the NYC Coalition to
Impeach and Remove gathered in Times Square, and then marched down to Herald
Square. Here are highlights:
The vigorous contest of
Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent
policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren details her
plan to tax excessive lobbying as part of her anti-corruption proposal. This is
from the Warren campaign:
Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren recently unveiled her plan for a new tax on excessive lobbying. It applies to every corporation and trade organization that spends over $500,000 per year lobbying our government. The revenue from this tax will be used to help our government fight back against the influence of lobbyists.
Based on our analysis of lobbying data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, if this tax had been in effect over the last 10 years, over 1,600 corporations and trade groups would have had to pay up – leading to an estimated $10 billion in total revenue.
Here is more about her plan to tax
When Americans think about corporate lobbyists, they usually think about the
people in fancy suits who line the halls of Congress armed with donations,
talking points, and whatever else they need to win favorable treatment for their
big corporate clients.
They’re right. In fact, corporate interests spend more on lobbying than
we spend to fund both houses of Congress — spending more than $2.8 billion on
lobbying last year alone. That’s why I have a plan to strengthen congressional
independence from lobbyists and give Congress the resources it
needs to defend against these influence campaigns.
But corporate lobbyists don’t just swarm Congress. They also target our federal
departments like the Environmental Protection Agency and
the Consumer Financial Protection
Bureau. These agencies exist to oversee giant corporations and
implement the laws coming out of Congress – but lobbyists often do their best
to grind public interest work at these agencies to a halt.
When the Department of Labor tried to protect workers from
predatory financial advisors who got rich by siphoning off large and
unnecessary fees from workers’ life savings, Wall Street lobbyists descended on
Washington to try to kill the effort – twice. When they failed
the second time, they sued to stop it in
When the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau tried to crack down on
payday lenders exploiting vulnerable communities, lobbyists convinced the Trump
administration to cripple the rule –
while the payday lenders who hired them spent about $1 million at
a Trump resort.
Regulatory agencies are only empowered to implement public interest rules under
authority granted by legislation already passed by Congress. So how is it that
lobbyists are able to kill, weaken, or delay so many important efforts to
implement the law?
Often they accomplish this goal by launching an all out assault on the process
of writing new rules – informally meeting with
federal agencies to push for favorable treatment, burying those agencies
in detailed industry comments during
the notice-and-comment rulemaking process, and pressuring members of Congress to
join their efforts to lobby against the rule. If the rule moves forward anyway,
they’ll argue to an obscure
federal agency tasked with weighing the costs and benefits of agency rules that
the rules are too costly, and if the regulation somehow survives this
onslaught, they’ll hire fancy lawyers to
challenge it in court.
I have released the most sweeping set of anti-corruption reforms since
Watergate. Under my plan, we will end lobbying as we know it.
We will make sure everyone who is paid to influence government is required to
register as a lobbyist, and we’ll impose strict disclosure requirements so that
lobbyists have to publicly report which agency rules they are seeking to
influence and what information they provide to those agencies. We’ll also shut
the revolving door between government and K Street to prevent another Trump
administration where ex-lobbyists lead the Department
of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, the
Department of Interior, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
My plan also calls for something unique – a new tax on excessive lobbying
that applies to every corporation and trade organization that spends over
$500,000 per year lobbying our government. This tax will reduce the incentive
for excessive lobbying, and raise money that we can use to fight back against
this kind of onslaught when it occurs.
Under my lobbying tax proposal, companies that spend between $500,000 and $1
million per year on lobbying, calculated on a quarterly basis, will pay a 35%
tax on those expenditures. For every dollar above $1 million spent on lobbying,
the rate will increase to 60% – and for every dollar above $5 million, it will
increase to 75%.
Based on our analysis of lobbying data provided
by the Center for Responsive Politics, if this tax had been in effect over the
last 10 years, over 1,600 corporations and trade groups would have had to pay
up – leading to an estimated $10 billion in total revenue. And 51 of them –
including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Koch Industries, Pfizer, Boeing,
Microsoft, Walmart, and Exxon – would have been subject to the 75% rate for
lobbying spending above $5 million in every one of those years.
Nobody will be surprised that the top five industries that would have paid the
highest lobbying taxes are the same industries that have spent the last decade
fighting tooth and nail against popular policies: Big Pharma, health insurance
companies, oil and gas companies, Wall Street firms, and electric
Among individual companies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would have owed the
most of any company or trade group in lobbying taxes: an estimated $770 million
on $1 billion in lobbying spending – over $400 million more than the
next-highest-paying organization, the National Association of Realtors, which
would have paid $307 million on $425 million in lobbying spending. Blue Cross
Blue Shield, PhRMA, and the American Hospital Association would have all paid
between $149 and $163 million in taxes on between $213 and $233 million in
lobbying spending. And General Electric, Boeing, AT&T, Business Roundtable,
and Comcast round out the top ten, paying between $105 million and $129 million
Every dollar raised by the lobbying tax will be placed into a new Lobbying
Defense Trust Fund dedicated to directing a surge of resources to Congress and
federal agencies to fight back against the effort to bury public interest
actions by the government.
Corporate lobbyists are experts at killing widely popular policies behind
Take just one example from the Obama administration. In October 2010, the
Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a
“fiduciary rule” to protect employee retirement accounts from brokers who charge exorbitant fees and
put their own commissions above earning returns for their clients. The idea was
simple: if you’re looking after someone’s money, you should look out for their
It’s an obvious rule – but it would cut into financial industry profits. So the
industry dispatched an army of lobbyists to fight against the
rule, including by burying the agency in public comments. In the first four
months, the DOL received hundreds of comments on
the proposed rule, including comments from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Morgan
Stanley, Bank of America, BlackRock, and other powerful financial interests.
After a public hearing with testimony from groups like Fidelity and J.P Morgan,
the agency received over 100 more comments —
including dozens from members of Congress,
many of which were
heavily slanted toward industry talking points.
Because the law requires agencies to respond to each concern laid out in the
public comments, when corporate interests flood agencies with comments, the
process often becomes so time-consuming and resource-intensive that it can kill or delay final rules altogether
– and that’s exactly what happened. On September 19, 2011, the DOL withdrew the proposed rule,
but said that it planned to try again in the future.
Undeterred, Wall Street pushed forward their lobbying campaign to ensure that
the Department of Labor wouldn’t try again to re-issue the fiduciary rule. In
June 2013, Robert Lewis, a lobbyist for an investment industry trade
group, personally drafted a letter opposing
this common-sense reform – and got 32 members of Congress to sign it. The
letter ominously urged the Department to “learn from its earlier experience”
when the financial industry had killed the first proposal. Soon, members of
Congress from both parties were joining in, telling the Obama
administration to delay re-issuing the rule.
To its great credit, the Obama Department of Labor didn’t give up. On February
23, 2015, the agency finally re-proposed the rule. Wall Street ramped up their
lobbying once more to try to kill it a second time. This time, with firm resolve
and committed allies, DOL and those of us fighting alongside
them beat back thousands of comments,
and retirees won – but it took so long that Donald Trump became President
before the rule fully went into effect.
Lobbyists have followed this same playbook to
block, narrow, or delay countless other common- sense industry regulations.
Swarm regulators and Congress, bury everyone in an avalanche of money, and
strangle government action in the public interest before it even gets off the
That’s why I’m using the revenue from my tax on excessive lobbying to
establish a new Lobbying Defense Trust Fund, which will help our government
fight back against the influence of lobbyists.
we’ll use the Lobbying Defense Trust Fund to strengthen congressional support
my plan to strengthen congressional
independence from lobbyists, I explained how lobbying tax revenue
would help to reinstate the Office of Technology Assessment and increase the
budget for other congressional support agencies, like the Congressional Budget
we’ll give more money to federal agencies that are facing significant lobbying
time a company above the $500,000 threshold spends money lobbying against a
rule from a federal agency, the taxes on that spending will go directly to the
agency to help it fight back. In 2010, DOL could have used that money to hire
more staffers to complete the rule more quickly and intake the flood of
industry comments opposing it.
revenue from the lobbying tax will help to establish a new Office of the Public
office will help the American people engage with federal agencies and fight for
the public interest in the rule-making process. If this office had existed in
2010, the Public Advocate would have made sure that DOL heard from workers and
retirees – even while both parties in Congress were spouting industry talking
My new lobbying tax will make hiring armies of lobbyists significantly more
expensive for the largest corporate influencers like Blue Cross Blue Shield,
Boeing, and Comcast. Sure, this may mean that some corporations and industry
groups will choose to reduce their lobbying expenditures, raising less tax
revenue down the road – but in that case, all the better.
And if instead corporations continue to engage in excessive lobbying, my
lobbying tax will raise even more revenue for Congress, agencies, and federal
watchdogs to fight back.
It’s just one more example of the kind of big, structural change we need to put
power back in the hands of the people – and break the grip that lobbyists have
on our government for good.
The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues.Ahead of her speech in Washington Square Park near the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, in which she delineated how corruption in Washington has allowed the rich and powerful to tilt the rules and grow richer and more powerful, Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to end Washington corruption.
Warren has already
advanced comprehensive anti-corruption legislation in Congress, but she is
going further with a set of far-reaching and aggressive proposals. “Her plan
will end lobbying as we know it, end self-dealing in the White House, end
corporate capture of the federal government’s rule-making process, hold our
federal judiciary and the Supreme Court to the highest ethical standards, and
Warren declared, “No
matter what brings you into this fight — whether it’s child care, student
loans, health care, immigration, or criminal justice, one thing is crystal
clear: corruption is making it worse — and it’s at the root of the major
problems we face as a democracy.
“Reforming the money
game in Washington isn’t enough. We also need to comprehensively clean up our
campaign finance system. That’s why I’ve also called for a constitutional
amendment to overturn Citizens
United. It’s why we need to get rid of the Super PACs and secret
spending by billionaires and giant corporations that try to buy our democracy.
It’s why we need to break the grip that big donors have by creating a system of
exclusive public funding of our elections. But even if we solve our campaign
finance problems, comprehensive anti-corruption reforms targeted at Washington
itself are necessary to finally end the stranglehold that the wealthy and the
well-connected have over our government’s decision-making processes.
“I believe that we can
root out corruption in Washington. I believe we must make big, structural
changes that will once again restore our trust in government by showing that it
can work for all of us. And when I’m President, that’s exactly what I’ll do.”
This is from the Elizabeth Warren campaign:
In 1958, the National Election Survey first asked Americans a simple question: Do you trust the government to do the right thing most of the time? That year, 73% of Americans said yes.
2019, that number is just 17%. Five out of every six Americans do not trust
their government to do the right thing.
have so many people lost faith in government?
true that right-wing politicians have spent a generation attacking the very
idea of government. But it’s also true that these days, our government doesn’t
work for most people. Sure, it works great for the wealthy and the
well-connected — but for everybody else, it doesn’t.
doesn’t work because big insurance companies and hospital conglomerates put
profits ahead of the health and well-being of the American people, and dump
piles of money into political campaigns and lobbying efforts to block any move
toward Medicare for All.
doesn’t work because big oil companies that have concealed climate studies —
and funded bought-and-paid-for climate denial research — bury regulators in an
avalanche of shady, bad-faith pseudoscience and then spend freely on influence
peddling in Congress to make sure nothing like a Green New Deal ever sees the
light of day.
doesn’t work because giant pharmaceutical companies want to squeeze every last
penny out of the people who depend on their prescriptions, while their army of
lobbyists suffocates reform any time there’s a discussion in Congress on drug
child care. Criminal justice reform. Affordable housing. Gun reform. Look
closely, and you’ll see — on issue after issue, widely popular policies are
stymied because giant corporations and billionaires who don’t want to pay taxes
or follow any rules use their money and influence to stand in the way of big,
We’ve got to call that out for what it is: corruption, plain and
no mistake about it: The Trump Administration is the most corrupt
administration of our lifetimes.
tax bill is a $1.5 trillion giveaway that primarily helps large corporations and wealthy
Americans. Half of the total registered lobbyists in Washington
worked on issues involving the word “tax” the year the bill was written —
that’s eleven lobbyists for every member of Congress. And when the members of
Congress who championed it lost their elections, they got juicy gigs in the lobbying industry themselves.
Supreme Court Justices were hand-picked by right-wing extremist groups that
spent millions on television ads — first to hold open a Supreme Court seat in
the Obama Administration, and then to pressure the Senate to rubber stamp their
candidates of choice, even when it meant ignoring serious sexual assault charges to ram through
these problems did not start with Donald Trump. They are much bigger than him —
and solving them will require big, structural change to fundamentally transform
why I’ve released plans to fight Washington corruption. A plan to make sure
that no president is above the law. A plan to tackle defense contractor coziness at the Pentagon.
A plan to ban private prisons and expand oversight, transparency, and
enforcement for all contractors hired by the federal government. In Congress,
I’ve previously advanced wide-ranging anti-corruption legislation.
we must go further.
Today, I’m announcing a comprehensive set of far-reaching and
aggressive proposals to root out corruption in Washington. It’s the most
sweeping set of anti-corruption reforms since Watergate. The goal of these
measures is straightforward: to take power away from the wealthy and the
well-connected in Washington and put it back where it belongs — in the hands of
plan lays out nearly a hundred ways that we can change our government to fix
this problem — from improving public integrity rules for federal officials in
every branch of government to ending lobbying as we know it, fixing the
criminal laws to hold corrupt politicians to account, and ensuring our federal
agencies and courts are free from corrupting influences.
I’m just getting started.
Restoring Public Integrity
you choose to be a public servant, you should serve the public — not your own
financial interests or the financial interests of the rich and powerful. But we
face a crisis of confidence in the ethics and public integrity of federal
officials in America. The revolving door in and out of the Trump Administration
is spinning out of control, and wave after wave of people in Trump’s orbit are
trying to profit personally from his presidency — including him.
even before Trump entered the White House, our nation’s public integrity rules
were far too lax. Too many public officials can easily leverage public service
for personal gain. And the ability to walk around government with obvious and
direct personal financial conflicts reduces public faith in honest officials.
To fix this, we need a total rewrite of our ethics laws.
We must begin by rooting out financial conflicts of interest in
Trump is a walking conflict of interest. Actually, more like 2,310 conflicts of interest — and counting.
His refusal to divest from his businesses has opened the door for giant
corporations, foreign lobbyists, and our own government officials to curry
favor with his administration and pad his own bottom line.
to a study by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in
Washington, Donald Trump has visited one of his own properties for nearly a
third of the total days that he has been president. Trump’s Washington hotel
even sent the federal government a bill for $200,000 because Secret Service agents
were forced to stay there as well.
countries have also taken the hint. Representatives from 65 foreign governments
have visited Trump properties since he took office, and embassies have begun
booking Trump’s hotels for their events. Trump has egged them on, shamelessly
floating another one of his properties as the venue for a future international summit.
corporations and billionaires have also tried to curry favor with Donald Trump
by patronizing his properties. T-Mobile sent its top executives to the Trump
Hotel in DC right after the company announced a merger requiring the Trump
administration’s approval. Payday lenders held their annual meetings at Trump’s golf club in Miami, while the
Trump administration has consistently gutted restrictions and regulations on
exploitative payday lenders. And several wealthy donors who pay the $200,000
Mar-a-Lago membership fee — which doubled when Trump became President — have
exerted “sweeping influence” at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
Trump’s own appointees and political allies have tried to suck up to Trump by
exploiting his conflicts of interest. More than 100 Republican Members of Congress have become patrons of
Trump’s businesses since he became President. Most recently, Trump’s Attorney
General William Barr spent $30,000 at Trump’s Washington Hotel, implausibly
claiming that it was the only place he could find for his holiday party in
Washington — and on an official trip to Ireland, Vice President Mike Pence
stayed at a Trump property reportedly at Trump’s instruction, even though it was three hours away from his
scheduled meetings in Dublin.
is by far the most egregious example — and we need new rules to hold leaders
accountable for this kind of conduct. But we cannot condemn this conduct
without also acknowledging that opportunities for the appearance of
self-dealing are far too easy across the federal government. Restoring public
confidence isn’t just about replacing Trump and his cronies. We need new bright
lines and clear rules to eliminate the possibility of public officials serving
where I would start:
End self-dealing in the White House by applying conflict of
interest laws to the President and Vice President. Under my plan,Presidents
and Vice Presidents would be required to place their businesses into a blind
trust to be sold off. No more payoffs. No more bribes from foreign governments.
No more self-dealing.
Disclose tax returns of federal candidates and officeholders to
the public automatically. Tax return disclosure for federally elected officials
shouldn’t be optional — it should be the law. And it shouldn’t just apply to Presidents
— it should apply to everyone running for or serving in federal elected office.
Presidential candidates, in particular, should follow the standard set by
Barack Obama for releasing at least eight years of returns. (I’ve released
eleven.) And the IRS should simply put out the required tax returns for
qualified candidates themselves — so nothing like Donald Trump’s refusal to
disclose his taxes can ever happen again.
Force senior government officials to divest from privately-owned
assets that could present conflicts of interest. White House
advisers like Jared Kushner have been allowed to use their
government positions to further enrich themselves and their families, while
Cabinet Officials like Betsy DeVos have hundreds of millions held in
privately-owned accounts that make it nearly impossible to determine who could
exercise influence over DeVos and her family. The fact that such conduct could
pass any kind of ethics screen makes it clear that we need new rules. My plan
puts an end to this practice by requiring senior officials, including those who
are unpaid like Kushner, to divest from their businesses and other conflicted
Completely ban the practice of government officials trading
individual stocks while in office. Under current law, members of Congress can
trade stocks and then use their powerful positions to increase the value of
those stocks and pad their own pockets. Tom Price, Trump’s former Secretary of
Health and Human Services, purchased pharmaceutical stocks while in the
House of Representatives — then fought hard to get a return on his investment
by pushing policies that would benefit giant pharmaceutical companies. And
another member of Congress, Chris Collins, was charged for trading the same stocks based on insider information. But
prosecutions like this are rare. And even where investments don’t influence
decisions, the existence of these direct conflicts undermine public confidence
solution is simple — ban members of Congress and senior government officials
from owning or trading individual stocks. Instead, they can invest in conflict-free
mutual funds or funds managed by the federal Thrift Savings Program. Law firms
follow these kinds of rules to prevent the appearance of financial conflicts
with the interests of their clients — there’s no reason important public
servants and elected officials shouldn’t, too.
Shut down a raft of additional shady practices that provide
opportunities for government officials to serve their own financial
interests. My plan bans members of Congress and senior congressional staff
from serving on corporate boards — whether or not they’re paid to do so. It
also strengthens ethics requirements for presidential transition teams to
ensure that those who are shaping our government disclose any conflicts of
interest and comply with the highest ethical standards. And to ensure that
there are no questions about whether members of Congress are acting based on
financial conflicts, like lobbyist-turned-Senator-turned-lobbyist Jon Kyl, my plan requires
every member of Congress, including appointed ones, to disclose their financial
conflicts before they take office.
Finally, we must immediately end the possibility of trading on
access to insider political information. Every year, hundreds of millions of
dollars flow into so-called “political intelligence” firms that hire operatives to prowl the
halls of Congress for insider information and sell that information to Wall Street traders trying to make a buck. My plan
combats this practice by implementing strict disclosure requirements and
regulations on so-called “political intelligence consulting,” including
criminal penalties for former public officials who use insider political
information to make investments or advise others who are doing so.
Next, it’s time to close and padlock the revolving door between
government and industry.
Trump has not just enriched himself and his advisers; he has turned his White
House into a case study in the dangers of the revolving door between industry
of these people was Gary Cohn, the former President of Goldman Sachs, who
became Trump’s top economic adviser. On his way out of Goldman, the firm gave
him a whopping $285 million — $123 million in the form of cash and
stocks that he could only collect if he left the firm to work in government.
call that a “pre-bribe.” And it paid off, too. While cashing that $285 million
check, Gary Cohn helped rewrite our nation’s tax laws, rammed the changes
through Congress, and gave Goldman Sachs their money back — and a few billion dollars in change.
are countless examples like this in the Trump Administration, but it’s a
widespread problem in official Washington — and it goes far beyond obvious and
egregious quid-pro-quo bribery. When someone serves in government with plans to
immediately turn around and work in the industry they’ve been overseeing, that
individual faces obvious incentives to advance the interests of their future
employer. And when someone moves immediately from a regulated company to a job
regulating that company, the public is right to worry about the risk that such
individuals will prioritize the interests of their old bosses.
must be able to benefit from tapping private sector expertise, and public
servants who leave government should be able to find post-government
employment. Similarly, volunteer and part-time government positions, which make
sense in certain situations, necessarily assume some level of outside work. But
there is a difference between expertise and graft.
isn’t simply a matter of replacing Trump with an honest President. We’ve seen
the issue of industry lobbyists and top execs spinning freely through the
revolving door to and from important government positions in both Democratic
and Republican administrations. Fixing the underlying problem requires us to
tighten up the rules to ensure that when government officials are making
decisions, they are considering only the public interest — and not their own
personal interests or the interests of their friends and future employers.
are some obvious steps to help address this problem:
Ban “golden parachutes” that provide corporate bonuses to
executives for serving in the federal government. We can’t let big
companies get away with installing their top executives in senior government
positions and paying them pre-bribes on their way out the door. Under my plan,
this would be illegal.
Restrict the ability of lobbyists to enter government
jobs. Under my proposal, current lobbyists won’t be able to take
government jobs for 2 years after lobbying, with limited exceptions for when
the hiring is in the national interest. Corporate lobbyists will have to wait
at least 6 years — no exceptions, and no waivers. These extensive cooling off
periods will help ensure that if anyone with this background is hired into a
government role, they are being selected because of their expertise, and not
Make it illegal for elected officials and top government
appointees to become lobbyists — ever. My plan bans Presidents, Vice Presidents,
Members of Congress, federal judges, and Cabinet Secretaries from ever becoming
lobbyists — not for one or two years, but for life. All other federal employees
will also be barred from lobbying their former office, agency, or House of
Congress after they leave government service for at least 2 years — or 6 years
for corporate lobbyists.
Restrict the ability of companies to buy up former federal
officials to rig the game for themselves. Under my plan,
companies would be banned from immediately hiring former senior government
officials whose agency or office the company has lobbied in the past two years.
And because the biggest and most market-dominant corporations in America also
exercise outsized political power, my plan blocks them from using personnel
hires to rig the game by banning giant companies, banks, and monopolies from
hiring former senior government officials for at least four years.
Next, we’ll hold our federal judiciary to the highest ethical
corporations and powerful interests haven’t limited their influence-peddling to
Congress and the White House. They’ve also turned their attention to the
is “no formal mechanism for review of conflicts” for Supreme Court
justices. But covering your eyes doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. The
Federalist Society — an extremist, corporate-funded right-wing group that
hand-picked Trump’s list of Supreme Court nominees — picked up Justice Clarence Thomas’s bills to attend a
fancy retreat hosted by the Koch brothers. And for years, Justice Thomas failed
to file public disclosures indicating that his wife worked as the White House
liaison for the Heritage Foundation, a group whose
co-founder personally began the conservative push to
overturn Roe v. Wade.
not just Supreme Court Justices, either. Federal judges can do just about
anything without disclosing it, and in the rare instance where their ethical
violations are discovered and they face investigation, they can escape further
scrutiny altogether by resigning without penalty.
federal court system only works if the American people have faith that it is
neutrally dispensing fair-minded justice without bias or personal interests
interfering in judicial decisions. If we want the American people to believe
this, we need some serious judicial ethics reforms.
where I’d start:
Ensure Supreme Court Justices are held to the same standard as
the rest of the federal judiciary. Today, every federal judge is bound by a Code
of Conduct — except Supreme Court justices. It’s a recipe for corruption. We
can fix it by applying the Code of Conduct for United States Judges to Supreme
Strengthen ethics requirements for federal judges. Corporations and
advocacy organizations routinely provide federal judges with all-expenses-paid
trips to extravagant seminars. My plan tightens existing rules that prohibit
judges from accepting gifts and establishes a new fund to cover reasonable
expenses for participating in judicial seminars. No more big speaking fees and
no more fancy trips to hunting lodges and golf courses. My plan also bans
federal judges from owning individual stocks.
Require judges to disclose key information so the American
people can verify that their conduct is above ethical reproach. My plan requires the
Judicial Conference of the United States — the institution in charge of
administering our federal courts — to publicly post judges’ financial reports,
recusal decisions, and speeches to bring these activities out of the shadows.
This will build public confidence that cases are being heard by fair and
Close the loophole that allows federal judges to escape
investigations for misconduct by stepping down from their post. When Ninth Circuit
Judge Alex Kozinski was confronted with a judicial ethics investigation for
sexual misconduct towards young female law clerks, he resigned — and the investigation immediately
ended. Similarly, sexual assault and perjury complaints against Brett Kavanaugh
were dismissed when he was confirmed to the Supreme
Court, and Donald Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump-Barry resigned from the bench,
ending an investigation into the Trump family’s decades-long tax schemes, including potential fraud. Under my plan,
investigations will remain open until their findings are made public and any
penalties for misconduct are issued.
Ending Lobbying As We Know It
fundamental promise of our democracy is that every voice matters. But when
lobbyists and big corporations can buy influence from politicians, that promise
is broken. The first thing to do to fix it is to end lobbying as we know it.
Constitution guarantees the American people the right to petition their
government with grievances. Lobbying isn’t new — it’s been around for
centuries. What’s new is the weaponization of lobbying to coerce our government
into doing whatever corporate interests want. While companies have an important
role to play in our democratic conversation, the voices of corporations and
powerful interests shouldn’t be the only voices in the room. But that’s exactly
to the 1970s, there was little corporate spending on lobbying. Last year,
over eleven thousand registered lobbyists roamed the halls of
government, mostly representing their powerful clients — to the tune of over $3
billion. It’s no wonder everyone else has such a hard time breaking through the
boom in the influence-peddling game has happened around the same time that
right-wing ideologues have slashed independent government resources and
in-house expertise, which are essential for officials to maintain their
independence from the “expertise” of self-interested corporate lobbyists.
Meanwhile, most corporate lobbying work remains hopelessly opaque — nominally
governed by a patchwork of weak definitions, few meaningful restrictions, and
inadequate reporting and disclosure requirements. And the free rein granted to
corporate lobbyists to also fundraise for political campaigns crosses the line
from influence peddling to legalized bribery.
can break the grip that lobbyists for giant corporations have on our
government. Together, we can end lobbying as we know it. Here’s where to start:
Expand the definition of lobbyists to include everyone who is
paid to influence lawmakers. Because of our weak laws, only individuals who meet directly
with politicians or spend more than 20% of their time lobbying are required to register as lobbyists. That means law
firms, consultancies, and even self-described lobbying firms that hire
individuals for the express purpose of influencing government may be able to
avoid these registration requirements — allowing powerful interests to
influence policy without any public accountability. This practice, endemic on
both sides of the aisle, must end.
plan brings this activity out of the shadows by strengthening the definition of
a lobbyist to include all individualspaid to influence government.
It also creates a new designation for corporate lobbyists to identify
individuals paid to influence government on behalf of for-profit entities and
their front-groups — and subjects these corporate hired guns to additional
Ban lobbying for foreign entities — period. President Trump’s
campaign chair currently sits in prison, convicted in part of
failing to properly register his shady foreign lobbying activity on behalf of
Ukraine. But what is the justification for allowing foreign governments to use
Americans as hired guns who sit in the shadows, quietly attempting to influence
our domestic political system? That’s not how diplomacy should work. Other
nations have ambassadors and diplomatic staff in the United States. If those
governments want to interact with our political process they can do so through
normal, above-board diplomatic channels. My plan categorically bans the
practice of private lobbying for foreign governments, foreign individuals, and
foreign companies. No more K Street influence-peddlers looking out for the
interests of China, Russia, or Saudi Arabia.
Impose strict rules on all lobbyists, including preventing them
from donating to or fundraising for political candidates. Paid lobbyists are
hired for one objective: to advance the interests of their clients. Allowing
individuals who are paid to influence government officials on policy to also
give gifts or funnel money to the political campaigns of those same officials
sounds like legalized bribery. My plan not only bans lobbyists from making
political contributions, it also bans them from bundling donations or hosting
fundraisers for political candidates. And it outlaws lobbying contingency fees,
where lobbyists are only paid if they successfully influence politicians to
achieve a policy outcome that serves their client’s narrow interests.
Dramatically expand the kinds of information lobbyists are
required to disclose. Our current laws require only minimal disclosure from
lobbyists of their activities. This prevents the American people from fully
understanding who is trying to influence government — and why. My plan requires
all lobbyists to report publicly all meetings with Congressional offices or
public officials, the documents they provide to those individuals, and all
government actions they attempt to influence. It also demands that all
charitable non-profit organizations, social welfare organizations, and trade
associations disclose any donors whose money was used to develop products to
influence Congressional testimony, agency rulemaking, or for lobbying purposes.
Impose a tax on excessive lobbying — and use this revenue to
give Congress and agencies the tools to fight back against the corporate
influence machine. In 2018, lobbyists spent a whopping $3.4 billion trying to influence public policy on
behalf of their clients, including $95 million from the pro-corporate Chamber of
Commerce, $73 million from the National Association of
Realtors, and $28 million from the Big Pharma lobbying group. The
right to petition our government does not allow industries to exercise
unlimited financial influence over policymakers. That’s why I will impose a tax
on any entity that spends over $500,000 per year on lobbying. The tax will
reduce the financial incentive for excessive lobbying, and its revenue will be
used to counter the effects of excessive lobbying by providing additional
financial resources for agencies to research and review regulatory actions that
are the targets of excessive lobbying activity, as well as additional funding
for the National Public Advocate, an office established to help the public
engage with the rulemaking process, and for Congressional support agencies.
Strengthen Congressional independence from lobbyists. Congressional offices
and agencies are severely underfunded, creating unnecessary pressure to rely on
lobbyists for expertise. My plan transitions Congressional staff to competitive
salaries and reinstates the nonpartisan Congressional Office of Technology
Assessment to help members of Congress understand new areas of science and
technology — because members of Congress should be able to access expertise and
information without being dependent on lobbyists.
End Corporate Capture of our Federal Agencies
federal agencies — agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, the
Department of Labor, and the Department of Energy — were created by Congress to
enforce and implement laws that protect the broad interests of the public
against the unrestrained exercise of corporate power. But because of the
revolving door, the avalanche of lobbyists, and the weakness of our agency
tools to fight back, agencies often find their agendas hijacked by the very
industries they are supposed to regulate. We can and should make additional
changes to strengthen agencies’ independence and their ability to act
decisively in the public interest.
are some of the steps my plan takes to address this:
Stop powerful actors from peddling fake research — often funded
by undisclosed donors — and hold corporations accountable for lying to
regulators. I’ll crack down on corporations who manipulate agencies by
submitting sham research — like the climate denial studies bought and paid for by oil and gas magnates like the Koch
Brothers — by requiring individuals who submit a public comment on a proposed
rule to disclose editorial conflicts-of-interest related to any
non-peer-reviewed research they cite. Studies that are determined to have
conflicts of interest will be withheld from the rulemaking process unless the
individual offering that research certifies that they have undergone rigorous,
independent peer review. Otherwise, we’ll treat them like the bad faith junk
science that they are, excluding them from the rulemaking process and
preventing any court from considering them too. And if a company misleads an
agency with “analysis” it knows to be false, they’ll be prosecuted just like
anyone else who lies under oath to Congress or in a court of law.
End the practice of inviting corporate bigwigs to negotiate
rules their companies would have to follow and put a stop to the stall tactics
they use to kill public interest rules. My plan restricts the parties eligible to
participate in the negotiated rulemaking process so that industry no longer has
an open door to dominate the process. It also closes the loopholes that have
allowed industry and agencies to delay the implementation of rules it
disfavors, including by ending so-called informal review, reducing the review
period to 45 days, and clarifying that only Appeals Courts — not individual
Federal District judges — can temporarily block the implementation of rules.
And my plan requires agencies to publicly justify the withdrawal of any public
Give the public the tools to fight back against corporations who
seek to co-opt this process for their benefit. My plan establishes an
Office of the Public Advocate to help the public engage with important legal
changes made by federal agencies during the rulemaking process. I’ll also allow
private individuals to bring lawsuits against federal agencies for
unnecessarily delaying or failing to enforce agency rules — and against corporations
who have violated them.
Ensuring Access to Justice for All
justice is supposed to be the promise of the American legal system. But it’s
not delivering on that promise. Instead, we have one system for the wealthy and
the well-connected, and a different one for everyone else. It’s hard enough to
hold a powerful company accountable through our legal system, but recent developments in the law have made it even harder for
individuals to even bring those cases in the first place. We need to reform our
legal rules to make sure every person who has been harmed can have their day in
how I’ll start:
Ban forced arbitration clauses. Many companies force
their employees and consumers to sign “forced arbitration” clauses as part of
their contracts for employment or for services. These clauses mean that if
something goes wrong, individuals agree to never file a lawsuit in federal
court against the company — and instead are diverted into a private dispute
system. These provisions are often tucked in the fine print of contracts
that workers or consumers sign, and many people don’t even know that they have
signed one until they have been harmed and need our courts to help them get
justice. These provisions shouldn’t be enforceable, but the conservative
majority in the Supreme Court decided that because there was no law explicitly
against them, they could be freely enforced. So let’s pass that law. My plan
categorically bans forced arbitration clauses from blocking lawsuits related to
employment, consumer protection, antitrust, and civil rights.
Ban mandatory class action waivers. When workers or consumers
are wronged by a company, they should be able to band together and seek
justice. Taking on a big corporation’s army of lawyers takes enormous sums of
money and legal expertise. But class action waivers tucked into consumer and
employment contracts prevent individuals from suing together.
That makes it virtually impossible to pursue a lawsuit, and gives companies unlimited
license to rip you off without any consequences. These anti-worker and
anti-consumer provisions shouldn’t be enforceable, but because of a Supreme Court decision written by Justice Gorsuch, they’re
alive and well. That’s why my plan would restore the fundamental right of
workers and consumers to join together when they are wronged by banning these
provisions in employment, consumer protection, antitrust, and civil rights
Restore fair pleading standards. When you file a
lawsuit, one of the first steps of the legal process is called “discovery.”
That’s when you’re supposed to ask questions and gather facts about your case,
but a pair of recent Supreme Court decisions upended decades of pleading standards, making it difficult
to file a case without already having many of these facts. These widely
criticized cases deprive plaintiffs of their day in court, and allow
powerful defendants to successfully dismiss cases before they even begin. My
plan would undo this damage by restoring fair pleading standards so that every
person who has been harmed gets their day in court.
Holding Bad Actors Accountable
reforms I’ve outlined will go a long way toward cleaning up Washington. But we
also need strong enforcement mechanisms and broad transparency requirements to
make sure we can hold bad actors accountable.
Let’s start with real penalties for violating the rules.
Washington, corrupt actors should face penalties when they break the law — not
return to business as usual.
how my plan would fix this:
Establish a new U.S. Office of Public Integrity and strengthen
ethics enforcement. The new office will investigate ethics complaints from the
public, impose civil and administrative penalties on violators, and refer
egregious violations to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.
Expand and strengthen the independent Office of Congressional
plan ensures this office has the proper authorities and resources to conduct
investigations, refer civil and criminal violations to the appropriate
authorities, and recommend disciplinary action to the House and Senate Ethics
Expand the definition of “official act” in bribery statutes to
criminalize the sale of government access. When a politician
accepts gifts in exchange for government favors, that’s bribery — but thanks to
a wrong-headed Supreme Court decision in United States v. McDonnell,
our laws don’t fully recognize it. My plan plugs that tractor-sized loophole
and ensures that corrupt politicians who accept bribes can be prosecuted. It
also clarifies that a stream of benefits — rather than a single act — qualifies
as an unlawful benefit paid in exchange for a bribe.
Clarify the definition of “in-kind contributions” to ensure that
no future candidate can receive political assistance from foreign countries or
solicit large hush money payments without facing legal consequences. Politicians and
advisors like Donald Trump Jr. have reportedly tried to receive help from
foreign countries, even though it is illegal for foreign individuals to provide
in-kind contributions to campaigns. And Donald Trump directed Michael Cohen to spend $130,000 to cover
up an affair so it would not come to light before the 2016 election, despite
laws preventing him from soliciting large in-kind contributions. Although a
federal judge accepted Cohen’s guilty plea, Trump’s lawyers and defenders continued to insist that what Cohen did — and what
Trump solicited — was not a crime. My plan settles this debate and clarifies
that the rules governing in-kind contributions also apply to intangible
benefits, such as dirt on political opponents, and in-kind financial contributions,
like the payment of hush money, when those contributions are made at least in
part — even if not exclusively — for campaign purposes.
Deter Corruption Through Broad New Government Transparency
government is supposed to work for the people, then the people should be given
enough information to judge how well their government is working for them. Too
many government records are kept behind lock and key, making it impossible for
the public to hold their government accountable. Significant legal actions that
have implications for public health and safety can be kept secret. And the
actions of federal contractors — the companies often tasked with the
implementation of government policies and programs, like Trump’s family
separation policy — are almost completely concealed from public view, thanks to
an assortment of exemptions and loopholes.
how my plan would shine a light on government activity:
Prohibit courts from sealing records involving major public
health and safety issues. When people were killed by ignition defects in
Chevrolet vehicles, General Motors settled the cases on the condition that all
documents related to the defects would be sealed from public view. It wasn’t an isolated
incident. Big corporations routinely use secret settlements to keep defective
products on the market so they can continue to rake in profits. That must stop.
My plan bans courts from sealing records in cases involving public health and
safety, with rare exceptions, so that corporations cannot conceal these
dangerous conditions from the American people.
Impose strict transparency standards for federal courts and
remove barriers to accessing electronic judicial records. My plan requires
federal appellate courts to livestream audio of their proceedings, share case assignment
data in bulk, and make all electronic case records — which currently must be
purchased from the government — more easily accessible and free of charge.
Strengthen federal open records laws to close loopholes and
exemptions that hide corporate influence, and increase transparency in
Congress, federal agencies, and nonprofits that aim to influence policy. The American people
have a right to know whether their elected leaders are acting in the public’s
best interest — and who is trying to influence them. Under my plan,
Congressional committees, government agencies, and federal contractors would be
required to publicly release key information so that the American people — and
the American press — can hold the federal government accountable.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, running to be the Democratic
candidate for president, began and ended her speech before some 20,000 gathered
at Washington Square Park in New York City relating the history of the Triangle
Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 which took place mere blocks from the Arch that
took the lives of 146 Jewish and Italian immigrant women and girls – still one
of the largest industrial accidents in US history. She spoke of Francis Perkins,
who ran from a townhouse just behind where Warren stood. Perkins was already an
activist for workers’ rights and won fire safety regulations, “but didn’t stop
there,” and other worker protections.
Even before women got the right to vote, Perkins became a
political adviser on workers rights and became the first woman Cabinet
secretary, Secretary of Labor, under FDR.
Perkins, Warren said, worked from within, while thousands of
women in the trade union movement, worked from outside – 500,000 marched in a
funeral procession up Fifth Avenue for the 146.
Speaking from a podium built of wood from the Frances
Perkins homestead in Newcastle, Maine, obtained from her grandson, Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall, Warren used the story to
prove her point of what can happen through grassroots action, that big bold
things – such as what she is proposing to make fundamental, systemic change. “Don’t
be afraid…” she declared – a not-so-subtle shout out to the Democrats who,
desperate to see Trump voted out of office, are looking for a candidate they
believe has the best chance of winning the general election, which for many
means someone who won’t rock the boat too much, rather than someone whose ideas
and proposals excite, engage and promote real structural change.
There were cheers throughout her speech delivered by a crowd
that the campaign estimated at 20,000 (Warren’s biggest to date) but especially
as she said, “Medicare for All,” and then, at the phrase, “wealth tax,” chants
of 2c, 2c, 2c rose up.
Warren, who had just been endorsed by the National Working
Families Party, said that the 2c on
every dollar after the first $50 million in wealth, would correct historic,
systemic, and “government sanctioned” racism and sexism that produced gaps in
income and also political power – redlining in housing, the pay gap between women
and men, particularly women of color, criminal justice reform, eliminating
private prisons that incentive locking people up, eliminating student debt,
providing universal pre-K. Without using the word “reparations” – she offered a
more constructive, implementable series of programs that would accomplish the
same goal of equalizing the opportunity to succeed.
“The time to hold back is over. We need structural change.”
Warren added, “I know what you are thinking – it is too
much, too big, too hard.” Then, scanning the crowd, she joked, “OK, nobody here.
I know this change is possible because others have made big structural change
And she went back to Perkins and the Triangle Shirtwaist
Factory – how factory owners, made filthy rich because of the horrendous
working conditions and wages were able to amass the wealth to buy politicians,
how greed by owners and corruption by politicians effectively negated
“30 years old, Francis Perkins already was a human rights activist…how,
seeing the fire at the factory, she ran and watched as young women leaped to
their death rather than be consumed by the flames. 500,000 at that march. It wasn’t the first
march, but it was different.”
“While they picketed from the outside, Francis pushed from
the inside. Those women died because of the greed of business owners and the
corruption of politicians. Perkins was the lead investigator, years before
women could vote, let alone have a role in government. But Frances had a” plan –
she fought for fire safety, but she didn’t stop there.
“With Francis working from the inside and the women workers
applying pressure from the outside, they rewrote state labor laws top to bottom
to protect workers. She became the leading expert on working conditions.” President
Franklin D. Roosevelt named her his Labor Secretary through the New Deal.
“That what one woman can do.” She added, “It’s what’s
possible when we fight together.”
Warren declared, “No
matter what brings you into this fight — whether it’s child care, student
loans, health care, immigration, or criminal justice, one thing is crystal
clear: corruption is making it worse — and it’s at the root of the major
problems we face as a democracy.
“Reforming the money game
in Washington isn’t enough. We also need to comprehensively clean up our
campaign finance system. That’s why I’ve also called for a constitutional
amendment to overturn Citizens United. It’s
why we need to get rid of the Super PACs and secret spending by billionaires and
giant corporations that try to buy our democracy. It’s why we need to br”eak
the grip that big donors have by creating a system of exclusive public funding
of our elections. But even if we solve our campaign finance problems,
comprehensive anti-corruption reforms targeted at Washington itself are
necessary to finally end the stranglehold that the wealthy and the
well-connected have over our government’s decision-making processes.
“I believe that we can root out corruption in Washington. I believe we must make big, structural changes that will once again restore our trust in government by showing that it can work for all of us. And when I’m President, that’s exactly what I’ll do.”
Warren, famous now for posing for selfies with people who come out to see her, wound up staying until midnight before the line, thousands long, was through. “I stayed four hours, but so did the last guy on line,” she later said. It is an indication of the enthusiasm for her and her endurance as a candidate at a time when a big issue among Democrats is who can get out the vote.
House Intelligence committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), in his opening and closing statements for the historic hearings on July 24, 2019, set out the significance of the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Election, and the ramifications of the government’s failure to prevent such interference in future elections.
“When asked, ‘If the Russians intervene again, will you take
their help, Mr. President?” ‘Why not?’ was the essence of his answer. ‘Everyone
“No, Mr. President, they don’t. Not in the America
envisioned by Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. Not for those who believe in the
idea that Lincoln labored until his dying day to preserve, the idea animating
our great national experiment, so unique then, so precious still, that our
government is chosen by our people, through our franchise, and not by some
hostile foreign power.
“This is what is at stake, our next election, and the one
after that for generations to come. Our democracy.”
Your report, for
those who have taken the time to study it, is methodical and it is devastating,
for it tells the story of a foreign adversary’s sweeping and systemic
intervention in a close U.S. presidential election.
That should be enough
to deserve the attention of every American, as you well point out. But your
report tells another story as well. The story of the 2016 election is also a
story about disloyalty to country, about greed, and about lies.
determined that the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump himself, knew that a
foreign power was intervening in our election and welcomed it, built Russian
meddling into their strategy and used it.
country. Those are strong words, but how else are we to describe a presidential
campaign which did not inform the authorities of a foreign offer of dirt on
their opponent, which did not publicly shun it or turn it away, but which
instead invited it, encouraged it and made full use of it?
That disloyalty may
not have been criminal. Constrained by uncooperative witnesses, the destruction
of documents and the use of encrypted communications, your team was not able to
establish each of the elements of the crime of conspiracy beyond a reasonable
doubt, so not a provable crime in any event.
But I think maybe
something worse: The crime is the violation of law written by Congress. But
disloyalty to country violates the very oath of citizenship, our devotion to a
core principle on which our nation was founded that we, the people and not some
foreign power that wishes us ill, we decide who governs us.
This is also a story
about money, and about greed and corruption. About the leadership of a campaign
willing to compromise the nation’s interest not only to win, but to make money
at the same time.
About a campaign
chairman indebted to pro-Russian interests who tried to use his position to
clear his debts and make millions. About a national security advisor using his
position to make money from still other foreign interests.
And about a candidate
trying to make more money than all of them put together through real estate
project that to him was worth a fortune, hundreds of millions of dollars and
the realization of a life-long ambition, a Trump Tower in the heart of Moscow.
A candidate who, in fact, viewed his whole campaign as the greatest infomercial
Donald Trump and his
senior staff were not alone in their desire to use the election to make money.
For Russia, too, there was a powerful financial motive. Putin wanted relief
from U.S. economic sanctions imposed in the wake of Russia’s invasion of
Ukraine and over human rights violations.
The secret Trump
Tower meeting between the Russians and senior campaign officials was about
sanctions. The secret conversations between Flynn and the Russian ambassador
were about sanctions. Trump and his team wanted more money for themselves, and
the Russians wanted more money for themselves and for their oligarchs.
But the story doesn’t
end here either, for your report also tells a story about lies. Lots of lies.
Lies about a gleaming tower in Moscow and lies about talks with the Kremlin.
Lies about the firing of FBI Director James Comey and lies about efforts to
fire you, Director Mueller, and lies to cover it up. Lies about secret
negotiations with the Russians over sanctions and lies about WikiLeaks. Lies
about polling data and lies about hush money payments. Lies about meetings in
the Seychelles to set up secret back channels and lies about a secret meeting
in New York Trump Tower. Lies to the FBI, lies to your staff, and lies to this
committee. Lies to obstruct an investigation into the most serious attack on
our democracy by a foreign power in our history.
That is where your
report ends, Director Mueller, with a scheme to cover up, obstruct and deceive
every bit as systematic and pervasive as the Russian disinformation campaign
itself, but far more pernicious since this rot came from within.
Even now after 448
pages and two volumes, the deception continues. The president and his accolades
say your report found no collusion, though your report explicitly declined to
address that question, since collusion can involve both criminal and
Your report laid out
multiple offers of Russian help to the Trump campaign, the campaign’s
acceptance of that help, and overt acts in furtherance of Russian help. To most
Americans that is the very definition of collusion, whether it is a crime or
They say your report
found no evidence of obstruction, though you outlined numerous actions by the
president intended to obstruct the investigation.
They say the
president has been fully exonerated, though you specifically declare you could
not exonerate him.
In fact, they say
your whole investigation was nothing more than a witch hunt, that the Russians
didn’t interfere in our election, that it’s all a terrible hoax. The real
crime, they say, is not that the Russians intervened to help Donald Trump, but
that the FBI investigated it when they did.
But worst of all,
worse than all the lies and the greed, is the disloyalty to country, for that,
When asked, “If the
Russians intervene again, will you take their help, Mr. President?” “Why not?”
was the essence of his answer. “Everyone does it.”
No, Mr. President,
they don’t. Not in the America envisioned by Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton.
Not for those who believe in the idea that Lincoln labored until his dying day
to preserve, the idea animating our great national experiment, so unique then,
so precious still, that our government is chosen by our people, through our
franchise, and not by some hostile foreign power.
This is what is at
stake, our next election, and the one after that for generations to come. Our
This is why your work
matters, Director Mueller. This is why our investigation matters, to bring
these dangers to light.
Director Mueller, let
me close by returning to where I began. Thank you for your service and thank
you for leading this investigation. The facts you set out in your report and
have elucidated here today tell a disturbing tale of a massive Russian
intervention in our election, of a campaign so eager to win, so driven by
greed, that it was willing to accept the help of a hostile foreign power, and a
presidential election decided by a handful of votes in a few key states.
Your work tells of a
campaign so determined to conceal their corrupt use of foreign help that they
risked going to jail by lying to you, to the FBI and to Congress about it and,
indeed, some have gone to jail over such lies. And your work speaks of a
president who committed countless acts of obstruction of justice that in my
opinion and that of many other prosecutors, had it been anyone else in the
country, they would have been indicted.
many things you have addressed today and in your report, there were some
questions you could not answer given the constraints you’re operating under.
You would not tell us whether you would have indicted the president but for the
OLC only that you could not, and so the Justice Department will have to make
that decision when the president leaves office, both as to the crime of
obstruction of justice and as to the campaign finance fraud scheme that
individual one directed and coordinated and for which Michael Cohen went to
You would not tell us
whether the president should be impeached, nor did we ask you since it is our
responsibility to determine the proper remedy for the conduct outlined in your
report. Whether we decide to impeach the president in the House or we do not,
we must take any action necessary to protect the country while he is in office.
You would not tell us
the results or whether other bodies looked into Russian compromise in the form
of money laundering, so we must do so. You would not tell us whether the
counterintelligence investigation revealed whether people still serving within
the administration pose a risk of compromise and should never have been given a
security clearance, so we must find out.
We did not bother to
ask whether financial inducements from any gulf nations were influencing this
U.S. policy, since it is outside the four corners of your report, and so we
must find out.
One thing is clear
from your report, your testimony from Director Wray’s statements yesterday, the
Russians massively intervened in 2016, and they are prepared to do so again in
voting that is set to begin a mere eight months from now.
The president seems
to welcome the help again. And so, we must make all efforts to harden our
election’s infrastructure to ensure there is a paper trail for all voting, to
deter the Russians from meddling, to discover it when they do, to disrupt it,
and to make them pay.
Protecting the sanctity of our elections begins, however,
with the recognition that accepting foreign help is disloyal to our country,
unethical, and wrong. We cannot control what the Russians do, not completely,
but we can decide what we do and that the centuries old experiment we call
American democracy is worth cherishing.