It is stunning that Grim Reaper McConnell, who held up the first House coronavirus stimulus bill for days, is now attacking Senate Democrats for refusing to rubberstamp a $2 trillion giveaway to corporate insiders and CEOs, raising the alarm (get this) that waiting until noon would mean a whole morning of Wall Street sinking further. A morning in exchange for the health and well being of Americans and the economy. The idea that Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, who made a bundle on the misery of the 2008 Bush Great Recession using just these same tactics, will personally decide what companies get bailed out is absurd – and a clear clue is that they want to keep secret who they are handing money to for 6 months.
Senator Elizabeth Warren and the Democrats have a better plan for immediate relief to Americans who will be most harmed financially now and perhaps for the rest of their lives: erase student debt, use the mechanisms you already have: expand unemployment insurance, disability, social security. Instead of simply incentivizing companies to not do anything and still collect up to $10 million in loans that would be forgiven (Mnuchin will choose who gets what), purchase goods and services needed now; evoke the war powers to require factories to reconfigure to produce vitally needed medical equipment and put in purchase orders for future production, say electric cars, long-life batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, and especially medical supplies which will give the companies the needed cash flow to get through. Then test everyone to determine who is already immune and can return to work, rather than lock people in for six months, nine months, until the hypothetical “herd immunization” number is reached.
At this point, projections call for 40 to 80 percent of people to become infected, and deaths from one million to two million. Trump and his Keystone Cops administration of corrupt, inept thugs have no clue how to keep the numbers down to a minimum, and keep people and the economy healthy. Vice President Joe Biden, running for president, offered his own criticism and plan in a speech – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Vice President Joe Biden on Combating Coronavirus (COVID-19)
I hope you and your family are doing well in these difficult, anxious, and confusing times.
Like all families, the Biden family is adjusting to new ways: less time together, more worrying about friends and relatives, concern about those isolated – or suffering – due to the coronavirus.
As Americans, we may be physically apart, but we are truly all in this together.
And let me say something right up front: When we have stood as one, this nation has never been defeated. And we are not going to be defeated now.
The pandemic of 1918. The Great Depression. Two World Wars. 9/11.
We overcame them all.
And out of each crisis – we emerged stronger.
And we will again.
This new enemy may be unseen – but we have the tools, the expertise, and, most important, the will and the spirit to defeat it.
But we need to move – and we need to move fast.
It matters for the public health. And it matters for our economy.
Later today, you will hear from the President in his daily briefing.
These briefings are an important opportunity to inform and reassure the American people
They’re not a place for political attacks. Or to lash out at the press.
They’re about the American people.
So I hope today and in the days ahead, the president will give us the unvarnished truth. That’s what the American people need and deserve.
I hope he lets medical experts and FEMA leaders and others carrying out the work take center stage so we can hear directly from them.
And I hope we hear less talk and see more evidence of fast action.
My principal focus today – and every day – will be on what we should do to get this response fixed, to save lives, and to provide economic assistance to the tens of millions of Americans who need it now – and who will need it in the weeks and months ahead.
It starts with adopting a mindset of real urgency.
For too long, the warning signs were ignored.
For too long the Administration said the threat was “under control,” “contained,” like a “flu.” The president says no one saw this coming. That’s just not true.
Our own intelligence officials were warning of the coronavirus threat in January.
Just based on public information, I warned that this threat would get worse way back on January 27, and urged the need to put science first, draw on emergency funds to get the response started, and think about invoking disaster powers to respond.
Many of us talked about the need to get U.S. scientists on the ground in China to see first-hand what was happening, rather than relying solely on China.
My point is not simply that the president was wrong.
My point is that the mindset that was slow to recognize the problem and treat it with the seriousness it deserves, is still too much a part of how the president is addressing the problem.
South Korea detected their first case of coronavirus on the same day that we did.
But they had tests and a sophisticated tracing program to stop the spread of the virus, so they didn’t have to put the country on lockdown.
We had none of that.
So we are left with only the extreme social distancing measures currently in place.
That’s a failure of planning and preparation by this White House.
Today, months later, Americans who need to be tested still have no access to tests in many parts of the country. And in many places, our health care system teeters on the brink of collapse.
Hospital beds are filling. Doctors and nurses are already running out of critical equipment.
The federal government needs to coordinate getting medical supplies out to every corner of our country so we don’t have governors competing against one another.
As late as yesterday, we are being told that the president still has not activated his authority under the Defense Production Act to direct American manufacturers to make essential supplies.
Trump keeps saying he’s a wartime president— well, then, he should act like one.
To paraphrase a frustrated President Lincoln writing to an inactive General McLellan during the Civil War: “If you don’t want to use the army, may I borrow it?”
We need to get in motion today what should have been set in motion weeks ago.
Any public health expert will tell you that in a crisis like this you can’t move too fast – you can only move too slow.
Let me be clear: Donald Trump is not to blame for the coronavirus. But he does bear responsibility for our response.
And I, along with every American, hope he steps up and starts to get this right.
This isn’t about politics.
There is simply too much at stake – too many lives, too many livelihoods, too many homes and families and businesses and communities at risk.
I’ve laid out a very detailed, in-depth plan for what we should do. You can read it all on JoeBiden.com.
We need immediate action –on testing, on research for treatments and vaccines, on leading a global response to beat the virus everywhere.
But today, I want to focus on just four key areas for action.
First, the President must take immediate steps to increase the capacity of our health care system to treat the sickest coronavirus patients, safely.
I’m glad the president has finally activated the National Guard.
Now we need the Armed Forces and the National Guard to help with hospital capacity, supplies, and logistics.
We need to activate a reserve corps of doctors and nurses to beef up the number of responders dealing with this crush of cases, and allow doctors and nurses trained abroad, not currently at work in the U.S., to temporarily work alongside our overburdened health care providers.
Second, the President must use the Defense Production Act to radically increase the supply of critical goods needed to treat patients and protect our health care workers and first responders, including protective gear like face masks, and critical equipment like ventilators so desperately needed in our hospitals.
It means working with our allies and partners to get supplies from overseas when available, and dispatching U.S. military assets to retrieve them quickly.
It means federal coordination of the supply chain to accelerate deliveries and get them to the right places. And much more.
We are the nation that built the arsenal of democracy in the 1940s. We can make personal protective equipment for health care workers in 2020.
Third, the President needs to end the infighting and bickering in his own administration, listen to the scientists, and provide clear guidance.
The American people are not getting clear leadership, clear action, or clear accountability.
Management matters in a crisis. I’ve been there in the Situation Room. There are thousands of steps that need to be taken, all at once.
You need to be planning not just for today and tomorrow, but for the day after.
Is this White House actively planning for what it will take for America to begin to return to something resembling normal life?
Just waiting and seeing isn’t going to cut it.
What are the conditions required? What capacities should be in place? What protections and protocols do we need to ensure the virus doesn’t simply start spreading again?
They need to start planning now, so the current measures stay in place for as long as they are needed, but not longer.
And fourth, the President needs to set the right priorities for our economic response.
Our guiding principle must be to keep everyone paid through this crisis.
We should be doing everything in our power to keep workers on payrolls, make small businesses healthy, and help the economy come out the other side strong.
The Federal Government should provide the resources to make that happen, while still protecting the American taxpayer.
Unfortunately, as of last night, President Trump and Mitch McConnell were offering a plan that let big corporations off the hook. They proposed a $500 billion slush fund for corporations, with almost no conditions.
Under their plan, the Trump Administration could even allow companies to use taxpayers’ money for stock buybacks and executive pay packages.
They wouldn’t have to make commitments to keep workers employed.
They wouldn’t even have to tell Americans where the money goes for months.
Today, there are active efforts to fix this bill so it focuses on workers and families and small businesses rather than no-strings corporate bailouts.
Here’s my bottom line: Millions of small businesses, like the family-run restaurant that is trying to stay open and pay its workers – they should get the funds they need.
Big companies will need help, too — but no blank checks.
If corporations take money from taxpayers, they have to make a commitment that they will keep workers on payroll.
The worker who is seeing their wages slashed — they need to be made whole.
Those who do lose jobs – they need strong, sustained, unemployment benefits, whether they are a gig worker or a full-time employee.
The family that will go hungry tonight – they need food on the table.
Social Security checks need to be boosted.
Student debt should be forgiven.
Cash relief needs to go out fast to all of the people who need it the most.
We can act quickly and together.
We can put the politics aside to meet this moment, like Governors all across the nation.
Mike Dewine in Ohio, Larry Hogan in Maryland, Charlie Baker in Massachusetts.
Gavin Newsom in California, Jay Inslee in Washington, Gretchen Witmer in Michigan.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s briefings are a lesson in leadership.
Republicans and Democrats — all are rising to the moment, putting aside politics to do what needs to be done.
But they all are looking to the federal government for more help.
Finally, it’s worth noting that today is the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act. I’m proud of the role I played, alongside President Obama, in bringing Obamacare into law. And I’m proud of its record of achievement.
But also today, in the middle of one of the biggest public health emergencies in generations, the White House and Republican attorneys general are actively pursuing a lawsuit to invalidate the ACA in court.
They are working to strip millions of Americans of their health care and tens of millions of their protections for pre-existing conditions.
I sent them a letter this morning, with a simple request: Withdraw this lawsuit. End this effort to take away people’s health care.
This is not the moment to add additional uncertainty and fear in this nation or to let politics trump doing what is right. Give Americans peace of mind.
In a crisis, character is revealed — and each day we are seeing the courage and heart of Americans shine through.
Our military, our first responders, our doctors, nurses and health care workers, of course.
But also those who we don’t think about as much: the grocery store workers; the mail and package carriers; the workers manufacturing the gear we need, keeping delivery trucks on the road, cooking meals to deliver, and tending our elderly loved ones; the journalists who keep us up to date and hold leaders accountable; the government officials working on this problem, and so many more.
They are putting it all on the line for us. We need to give them all the help they need now. And we need to be sure we never forget what they’ve done.
Let me close with this thought: Deep in the heart of every American, there burns a flame. It’s an inheritance from every generation of Americans that has come before us. It’s why we have overcome every crisis we have ever faced before. It’s what makes this nation special and why we stand apart.
That flame is not going to be extinguished in this moment.
If our leadership does its part, the American people will do their part.
Because here’s the simple truth: The American people have never, ever let this country down.
So, we need to get moving, and moving fast.
This is the United States of America, and there’s not a single thing we can’t do — if we do it together. Thank you.
Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the 2020 candidate
for President, issued a statement criticizing Trump’s “lack of strategy to
secure our nation against terrorist threats.”
successful operation to take Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi off the battlefield was a win
for American national security. And it’s an important reminder of the skill and
commitment of our military, intelligence, and national security professionals.
They are beyond compare.
I’m glad President Trump ordered the mission. But as more details of the raid
emerge, it’s clear that this victory was not due to Donald Trump’s leadership.
It happened despite his ineptitude as Commander-in-Chief.
It’s been reported that Trump’s reckless decision to withdraw our troops from
northern Syria forced the planning for the mission to be accelerated and the
timeline compressed. His erratic behavior made it harder and more dangerous for
the special forces carrying it out. And they had to fly through territory that
is now hostile to the U.S., taking fire along the way—including territory we
controlled just weeks ago.
Trump has also made it less likely we will be able to successfully replicate a
mission like this in the future. The operation leveraged a limited presence of
U.S. counterterrorism capabilities in the region, which he keeps trying to
dismantle. It was made possible by the work of intelligence professionals, who
he has relentlessly attacked. It relied on allies he has belittled, undermined,
and in some cases betrayed and abandoned.
Trump’s total disregard for our alliances and partnerships endanger any future
intelligence sharing or cooperation. In fact, the first people he saw fit to
thank after our brave troops were the Russians and the Iranian-backed Syrian
government. All this makes us less safe and less prepared for whatever
terrorist leader emerges next.
And make no mistake, the threat is not gone. One man does not constitute an
organization, and Trump has opened a path for ISIS to reconstitute itself under
new leadership by withdrawing troops from the region. In doing so, he has given
up our best asset to keep the pressure on ISIS during a dangerous period of
organizational chaos. His fixation on keeping troops in the region to defend
the oil fields betrays his true priorities—profit seeking—and will surely serve
as a tool for future terrorist recruitment. And with his decision to slash
humanitarian assistance to the region, it’s more likely that ISIS will be able
to insinuate itself back into areas where we had successfully rooted it
There is a difference between deploying hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to
the Middle East indefinitely, and keeping small numbers of special operations
and intelligence assets in place to maintain local partnerships and keep
pressure on terrorists. That’s the smart, strong, and sustainable strategy we
pioneered during the Obama-Biden Administration. That’s the effective policy we
put in place, which laid the groundwork to end ISIS’s territorial caliphate.
That’s the way we built the very relationships that ultimately delivered this
Now, Trump wants to tear it all down and walk away.
He has no strategy for securing our nation against terrorist threats. He has no
strategy for anything. Every day that Donald Trump directs American national
security is a dangerous day for the United States.
The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Former Vice President Joe Biden, seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, is proposing an ambitious campaign finance plan to guarantee that government works for the people and not for special interests. Biden has been criticized, however, for his recent announcement, in face of low campaign cash on hand, that he would accept money from Super PACs.
This is from the Biden campaign:
“Donald Trump has presided over the most corrupt administration in modern history. Trump has abused the presidency to enrich himself — spending countless tax dollars at his own properties. Members of his administration have failed to divest themselves from conflicts of interest as promised. Trump has weaponized the Executive Branch against its core mission, including using the U.S. Justice Department to protect the president and his interests, over the American people and the rule of law. And, Trump has welcomed wealthy special interests — including the National Rifle Association — into the Oval Office and to the highest levels of his administration to develop and guide policy.”
Biden will strengthen our laws to ensure that no future president can ever again abuse the office for personal gain.
As president, Biden will:
Reduce the corrupting influence of money in
politics and make it easier for candidates of all backgrounds to run for
Return integrity to the U.S. Department of
Justice and to Executive Branch decision-making;
Restore ethics in government;
Rein in Executive Branch financial conflicts
of interest; and
Hold the lobbyists and those they lobby to a
higher standard of accountability.
Highlights from Biden’s plan include:
Biden will introduce a constitutional
amendment to entirely eliminate private dollars from our federal elections.
This amendment will do far more than just overturn Citizens United: it will
return our democracy to the people, away from the corporate interests that seek
to distort it. While we work toward a constitutional amendment, meaningful
change can be made by legislation. Biden will propose legislation to provide
public matching funds for small dollar donations to all federal candidates.
Biden has advocated for public financing of federal campaigns since the very
beginning of his Senate career. He first co-sponsored legislation to create a
public financing system for House and Senate candidates in 1973.
Biden will block any future president or
anyone else in the White House from interfering with decisions about who or
what to investigate and prosecute. On day one, Biden will issue an Executive
Order directing that no White House staff or any member of his administration
may initiate, encourage, obstruct, or otherwise improperly influence specific
DOJ investigations or prosecutions for any reason; he will commit to
terminating anyone who tries to do so. Biden will also enact legislation giving
the DOJ Inspector General full power to investigate any allegation of improper
partisan influence on DOJ investigations and prosecutions; and requiring the IG
to report in detail to Congress any time such an allegation is
Biden will establish the Commission on Federal
Ethics (CFE), a single government agency empowered to oversee and enforce
federal anti-corruption and ethics laws. CFE will have the authority to enforce
its own subpoenas and to refer matters for criminal investigation to the DOJ,
as well as an obligation to report to the public when DOJ has chosen not to
proceed with that referral. It will be tasked with tightening existing
loopholes that let public officials hide assets in discretionary trusts, or let
lobbyists cloak influence campaigns in vague disclosures. And, CFE will be
tasked with establishing ethics.gov, a new one-stop destination with all campaign finance,
financial disclosure, and lobbying information all in one place.
Biden will expand and strengthen lobbying
disclosure laws, requiring the office-holder in addition to the lobbyist to
disclose the meeting. And, Biden will require Members of Congress to disclose
any legislative language or bill text submitted by any lobbying party.
Additionally, Executive Branch officials will be required to disclose any
regulatory text submitted by any outside entity.
Biden will bar lobbying by foreign
governments; and will require that any foreign business seeking to lobby must
verify that no foreign government materially owns or controls any part of it.
Biden will enact legislation that requires all
candidates for federal office disclose returns dating back 10 years prior to
the date they declared their candidacy for their first federal office.
FACT SHEET: THE BIDEN PLAN TO
GUARANTEE GOVERNMENT WORKS FOR THE PEOPLE
REDUCE THE CORRUPTING
INFLUENCE OF MONEY IN POLITICS
Biden strongly believes that we could improve our politics overnight if we
flushed big money from the system and had public financing of our elections.
Democracy works best when a big bank account or a large donor list are not
prerequisites for office, and elected representatives come from all backgrounds,
regardless of resources. But for too long, special interests and corporations
have skewed the policy process in their favor with political contributions.
Biden has advocated for public financing of federal campaigns since the very
beginning of his Senate career. He first co-sponsored legislation to create a public financing system for
House and Senate candidates in 1973. In 1997 and many years afterward, he co-sponsored a constitutional amendment that would have limited contributions as
well as corporate and private spending in elections and prevented the damage
caused by the Supreme Court in Citizens United.
Biden will reform our campaign finance system so that it amplifies the voices
of the public, not the powerful — particularly the voices of working Americans.
Under his leadership, our system will make sure that the principles of
equality, transparency, and public — not private — interest drive all
government decisions. Toward those ends, Biden will:
constitutional amendment to entirely eliminate private dollars from our federal
elections. Biden believes it is long
past time to end the influence of private dollars in our federal elections. As
president, Biden will fight for a constitutional amendment that will require
candidates for federal office to solely fund their campaigns with public
dollars, and prevent outside spending from distorting the election process.
This amendment will do far more than just overturn Citizens United: it will return our democracy to the people and away from
the corporate interests that seek to distort it.
Enact legislation to
provide voluntary matching public funds for federal candidates receiving small
dollar donations. While we work toward a
constitutional amendment, meaningful change can be made by legislation. Biden
will propose legislation to provide public matching funds for small dollar
donations to all federal candidates. This will especially help first-time
candidates access the resources needed to compete, freeing them to focus on
interacting with voters, not high-dollar donors.
Keep foreign money out of
our elections. Biden will propose a law
to strengthen our prohibitions on foreign nationals trying to influence
federal, state, or local elections. He will direct a new independent
agency, the Commission on Federal Ethics (discussed in detail below), to assure
vigorous and unified enforcement of this and other anti-corruption laws. The
Commission will establish robust disclosure requirements, so that any online
electioneering communication that originates abroad is identified and
Restrict SuperPACs. The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United is wrong and should be overturned by a constitutional amendment
– but we can’t wait to limit its pernicious effect. As president, Biden will
work to enact legislation ensuring that SuperPACs are wholly independent of
campaigns and political parties, from establishment, to fundraising and
Increase transparency of
election spending. Our campaign
finance law is outdated, and Biden will update it to reflect the modern era.
Too often, candidates and their allies now use online platforms like Facebook
and Twitter to spread misleading or outright false ads that are micro-targeted
to certain populations and unrecognized by the press. Biden will propose
legislation codifying what should be a simple tenet of campaign finance law:
any group that advocates for or against candidates for federal office in its
ads or communications must disclose its contributors. No more hiding
behind “dark money” groups to spread lies. This law will require all online
ads, how they’re targeted, and who paid for them to be posted by the groups to
a public database on a new one-stop website, ethics.gov — so no one can
target voters with misinformation without attracting media or political
End dark money
groups. Federal law recognizes
“social welfare” groups, also known as 501(c)(4)s, which were intended to
advocate for specific causes. But after Citizens United, they’ve increasingly
been used as dark money groups — spending hundreds of millions of dollars on
federal and state elections without disclosing their donors. Biden will enact
legislation to bar 501(c)(4)s from spending in elections – the same bar that
applies to Section 501(c)(3) charitable groups. He’ll also lead reform of the
Federal Election Campaign Act, to ensure that any entity of any kind that
spends more than $10,000 on federal elections must register with the Commission
on Federal Ethics and publicly disclose its donors.
Require real time
disclosure. Today, voters have to
wait until after an election to fully learn who spent money to influence their
decision. Biden will propose legislation to change that, by requiring campaigns
and outside entities that run ads within 60 days of an election to disclose any
new contributions within 48 hours.
Ban corporate PAC
contributions to candidates, and prohibit lobbyist contributions to those who
they lobby. Biden will ensure that
lobbyists and corporate PACs do not play a role in our elections. Biden’s
presidential campaign is refusing any funding from lobbyists and corporate
PACs. As president, he’ll enact legislation to bar lobbyists from making
contributions to, and fundraising or bundling for, those who they lobby. This
legislation will be designed to ensure that the public knows as much as
possible about the political spending of those who seek to influence
officeholders and other government officials. Any lobbyist contribution
must be disclosed within 24-hours, and any lobbyist-hosted fundraising event
must be disclosed before it occurs.
Reform funding for
national party conventions. Biden will propose
legislation establishing that any political party that receives more than 5% of
the national vote should have its national convention publicly financed.
Primaries — and the conventions that certify their results — are good for
democracy. Conventions should be, too. They should not be funded by corporate
or monied interests.
Close the federal
contractor loophole. As president, Biden will
close the loophole that currently allows officers and directors of federal
contractors to contribute to federal candidates. If you make money from
government contracts, you should do so on merit — not because of campaign
RETURN INTEGRITY TO THE
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AND OTHER EXECUTIVE BRANCH DECISION-MAKING
The Attorney General and the rest of U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) serve and
protect the American people, not the private and political interests of the
president. The same is true for other Executive Branch agencies. Yet time after
time, President Trump has improperly sought to use DOJ to attack his political
opponents and to shield him, his family, and his associates from any meaningful
oversight or investigation. Trump has asked DOJ to prosecute Democrats and
others who disagree with him; he has enlisted DOJ in his effort to keep his tax
returns from seeing the light of day; and he has attacked the hard-working
career prosecutors and agents who devote their lives to public service.
Trump has weaponized the DOJ against laws enacted by Congress and supported by
the public — like the Affordable Care Act, which has given more than 20 million
Americans access to health insurance that they lacked before. He has
similarly used his appointments and executive orders to ask Executive Branch
agencies to stray from their mission — directing the Department of Health and
Human Services to dismantle, rather than enforce, the Affordable Care Act and
asking the Environmental Protection Agency to excuse polluters, rather than to
ensure clean air and clean water for the American people, as the law
requires. It’s wrong.
To maintain the rule of law, and to bring integrity back to our justice system
and government, Biden will take aggressive action, including:
Prevent the president or
White House from improperly interfering in federal investigations and
prosecutions. Biden will work to
block any future president or anyone else in the White House from improperly
interfering with decisions about who or what to investigate and prosecute.
Those decisions must be based on the facts and the law alone, free from
political or partisan influence. The president can set broad enforcement
priorities, but he or she should never tell DOJ which specific people or
companies to investigate or prosecute. On day one of his presidency, Biden will
issue an Executive Order directing that no White House staff or any member of
his administration may initiate, encourage, obstruct, or otherwise improperly
influence specific DOJ investigations or prosecutions for any reason; and he
will pledge to terminate anyone who tries to do so. Biden will also enact
legislation giving the DOJ Inspector General full power to investigate any
allegation of improper partisan influence on DOJ investigations and
prosecutions; and requiring the IG to report in detail to Congress any time
such an allegation is substantiated. And, Biden will work with Congress to
strengthen our whistleblower laws, so that any federal employee who learns of
an improper attempt to influence a DOJ investigation or prosecution knows how
to report it and receives full protection against retaliation by anyone,
including the president. Those reforms will also ensure that all such reports
are transmitted directly to the Congress.
Increase transparency in
DOJ decision-making. Biden will make DOJ
policies and practices more transparent and accessible to the public. Too many
of the Trump Administration’s worst decisions – whether claiming that the
Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional or that DACA is illegal – were made
without grounding in the law. Biden will require DOJ to report and explain in
detail any change in position on a significant legal issue to Congress and the
Empower agency watchdogs
to combat unethical behavior. Biden will
strengthen Inspectors General laws — which established watchdogs in nearly
every Executive Branch agency — to give IGs the full subpoena power and
independence they need to investigate and publicize any official’s actual or
attempted improper conduct. Inspectors General must be given the express
authority to prevent, investigate, and disclose all violations.
interference in agency matters. Biden will ensure
that agency decisions on specific matters, like awarding government contracts
or granting government permits, are based on merit and expertise, not on political
preferences. Biden will issue an Executive Order prohibiting anyone in the
White House from interfering with federal agencies on these matters, and he
will require the White House to disclose to the public if any corporation,
individual, or other entity tries to solicit White House help. This
information will be aggregated and made public by the Commission on Federal
Empower DOJ to enforce
the law. Biden will ensure that DOJ has the
resources and authority to enforce our laws, including those the Trump
Administration has told career prosecutors and agents to ignore – laws that
protect our voting rights, make discrimination illegal, and protect the
environment. And, Biden will re-commit the Department’s Civil Rights and Energy
and Natural Resources divisions to their missions.
RESTORE ETHICS IN
For the eight years of the Obama-Biden Administration, there was not a hint of
scandal. The administration established the most stringent ethics code ever
adopted by any White House. Its procedures ensured that all decisions were made
on the merits, without bias, favoritism, or undue influence. President Obama
and Vice President Biden set clear expectations that the ethics code and
existing law must be followed.
The Trump Administration has shredded those standards. Trump is accepting
foreign emoluments, and has disregarded his pledge not to expand his business
overseas. And, Trump is using the federal government to prop up his resorts
with countless tax dollars.
Many of our imperfect yet essential government ethics laws trace their origins
to the country’s response to Watergate. As president, Biden will ensure that
the country’s response to the Trump Administration’s violations is even more
aggressive. Specifically, Biden will:
Establish the Commission
on Federal Ethics to more effectively enforce federal ethics law. Biden will propose and enact legislation establishing a single
government agency empowered to oversee and enforce federal anti-corruption and
ethics laws. Today, existing law is a patchwork of subject-matter-specific
mandates, overseen by agencies that often lack the authority to demand and
receive compliance. And, public data tracking who is trying to influence our
elected officials is equally patchworked and hard to find. This commission will
make all information about how certain interests are seeking to influence our
government easily accessible.
The office will have broad investigative and
civil enforcement authority, expanding on powers now held by the FEC, OGE, and the
Office of Special Counsel. It will have the authority to enforce its own
subpoenas, ending the Trump Administration’s illegal stonewalling. It will have
the power to refer matters for criminal investigation to the DOJ, and an
obligation to report to the public when DOJ has chosen not to proceed with that
referral. And it will be tasked with tightening existing loopholes that let
public officials hide assets in discretionary trusts, or let lobbyists cloak
influence campaigns in vague disclosures.
In addition, the Commission on Federal Ethics
(CFE) will be tasked with establishing an ethics.gov, a new one-stop
destination for Americans interested in learning about the elected and
appointed officials who serve them, and those who seek to influence that
service. It will compile campaign finance, financial disclosure, and lobbying
information all in one place — and, as detailed in this plan, that information
will be more comprehensive than ever.
CFE Structure: To avoid the stalemate that afflicts some agencies today, CFE
will be run by a five-member Commission, appointed by the President and
confirmed by the Senate, with no more than three commissioners from the same
political party. Commissioners will hold office for staggered 10-year terms
across presidential administrations, removable only for cause. Nominations to
the Commission will be suggested by a blue ribbon panel of former prosecutors,
judges, and state regulators. Only those with experience in prosecuting public
corruption or regulating ethics and campaign finance will be eligible for
To monitor CFE effectiveness, and to ensure
that it responds to all threats to ethical and transparent government, the
Office will be advised by an 11-member CFE Oversight Board, comprised of
bipartisan experts in ethics, campaign finance, and open government. The Board
will report to CFE twice annually with recommendations on how to strengthen
ethics enforcement; when the Board recommends updates, CFE will be bound to
consider them publicly and to explain if any are not followed.
Require that all
candidates for federal office release tax returns dating back 10 years prior to
the date they declared candidacy for their first federal office. Many Senate committees require nominees for Cabinet-level
positions to provide their tax returns for inspection – because knowing how a
person has earned their living can inform decisions on their suitability for
office. If we require that of appointed officials, why do we expect less of
elected-office seekers? The past 21 years of Biden’s federal tax returns have
been released, open to inspection by voters and the media. As president, Biden
will enact legislation requiring that every candidate for federal office
disclose returns dating back 10 years prior to the date they declared their
candidacy for their first federal office.
Expand on and codify into
law the Obama-Biden Administration ethics pledge. On day one, Biden will issue an ethics pledge, building and
improving on the Obama-Biden Administration’s pledge, to ensure that every member of his administration focuses
day-in and day-out on the best outcomes for the American people, and nothing
else. The pledge will address not only the improper influence of lobbyists, but
also any improper or inappropriate influence from personal, financial, and
other interests – ensuring an extra layer of review and scrutiny whenever
policy proposals or recommendations come from a conflicted source.
REIN IN EXECUTIVE BRANCH
FINANCIAL CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
President Trump is using the Presidency to enrich himself. His Cabinet is full
of members who’ve failed to follow through on promised divestments or recusals.
Biden will renew public confidence in our democracy by ensuring that everyone
in a position of public trust eliminates even the appearance that their
financial holdings could influence decision-making.
As president, Biden will:
Prevent the president and
other senior Executive Branch members from being influenced by personal
financial holdings. No member of the Biden
Administration will be influenced by personal financial holdings. As President,
just as he did as Vice President, Biden will hold only Treasury bonds,
annuities, mutual funds, and private residential real estate; likewise, any
retirement plans benefiting Joe or Jill Biden will be in large-cap mutual
funds. By Executive Order, Biden will demand strict compliance with ethics
agreements that he will demand of each of his Cabinet and other senior
administration officials. And, he will enact legislation strengthening these
practices, so we’re never again exposed to self-enrichment like that seen in the
Extend this standard to
U.S. House and Senate members. Biden will work with
Congress to enact legislation to apply similar standards to its members.
Eliminate the trust
loophole in existing financial disclosure law. The Ethics in Government Act requires candidates for
federal office and senior Executive Branch officials to disclose their assets.
It aims to give the public, media, and other government officials a chance to
identify potential conflicts, and to demand recusal where appropriate. But
candidates and public officials often transfer assets into trusts controlled by
family members or close friends, and then disclose just the existence of the
trust rather than the assets it holds. This loophole has allowed many senior
officials — including President Trump — to avoid disclosing significant
financial interests. Biden will work with Congress to close this loophole; and
will meanwhile require that any member of his Administration who is a
beneficiary of a discretionary trust disclose all of its holdings.
HOLD THE LOBBIED AND
LOBBYISTS TO A HIGHER STANDARD OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Our government should operate in the public interest—making decisions on the
merits, and not to meet the demands of well-heeled interests. The public has a
right to know when lobbyists meet Members of Congress and Executive Branch
officials; it should know with whom they speak, and about what. What’s more,
lobbyists often provide draft legislative or regulatory language they hope to
be enacted. That information should be made public, too. Today, our lobbyist
regulations are filled with loopholes and only lobbyists and the corporate
interests they represent are required to disclose far too little.. It is time
that we strengthen our lobbyist rules and hold public officials accountable by
making sure they meet these higher standards too.
As president, Biden will:
Hold elected officials
accountable for public transparency of lobbying meetings. Existing lobbying law focuses primarily on the people who are
doing the lobbying. It is time the law expanded to include the public officials
who are the subject of lobbying. If your Senator or Representative is meeting
with a special interest group, you should know. If the Secretary of Education
is making decisions about student debt after dozens of meetings with lenders,
you should know that, too. Biden will expand lobbying disclosure laws, so the
obligation for transparency falls on the office-holder, as well as on the
lobbyist. Specifically, Biden will propose legislation to require elected
officials to disclose monthly any meetings or communications with any lobbyist
or special interest trying to influence the passage or defeat of a specific
bill – whether seeking the officeholder’s vote, or assistance in introducing or
developing legislation. Under the Biden plan, members of Congress will be
required to disclose any legislative language or bill text submitted by any
lobbying party. Executive Branch officials will be required to disclose any
regulatory text submitted by any outside entity. And, members of Congress and
senior executive branch officials will be required to develop and disclose any
access policy they have that governs requests for appointments. The CFE will
make all of that information publicly available. If an office-holder believes
that meetings with particular entities serve the public, let them explain why.
Make lobbying disclosure
meaningful. Lobbying law should
effectively inform the public and discourage conduct that distorts government
decision-making. But current law does neither. Disclosure requirements are
riddled with loopholes, so lobbyists can coordinate a PR campaign without ever
disclosing their work. Detailed campaigns can be shielded by vague references
to lobbying a chamber of Congress. Influencers are free to disclose only
general information about the laws and regulatory activity they are trying to
shape, without revealing specifics. Biden will lower the threshold for when those
seeking to influence government decisions must register as “lobbyists” — to
include anyone who earns more than $1,000 annually to be involved in developing
or overseeing a lobbying strategy. The law will require them to disclose in
detail exactly what they’re doing: with whom they’re meeting, the materials
they’re sharing, any specific legislative (or regulatory) language they are
proposing, and precisely what outcomes they’re seeking.
governments’ use of lobbyists. There is no reason why a
foreign government should be permitted to lobby Congress or the Executive
Branch, let alone interfere in our elections. If a foreign government wants to
share its views with the United States or to influence its decision-making, it
should do so through regular diplomatic channels. The Biden Administration will
bar lobbying by foreign governments; and it will require that any foreign
business seeking to lobby must verify that no foreign government materially
owns or controls any part of it.
Ensure truly public
access. In Washington, the
ability to schedule a meeting with an elected official or his or her staff is a
form of currency. Under the Biden plan, members of Congress and senior
Executive Branch officials will be required to develop and disclose to the
public any policies that their office has instituted on when to accept or
prioritize appointments. In addition, Biden will return to the Obama-Biden
Administration practice of disclosing White House visitor lists.