House Democrats on Monday rallied around their marquee legislation for the next Congress — a long-stalled package of broad election overhaul items that includes voting, campaign-finance and ethics laws.
They are looking to presumed President-elect Joseph R. Biden to break through a congressional logjam that has kept the legislation on ice for more than a year.
“With this election, the American people had just participated in — it was a historic election. A record-shattering 78 million Americans, the most in history, voted to send Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. “The other side had a big vote too and that’s good.”
“Now with Joe Biden in the White House, we can turn this legislation into law,” she said. “It’s always about who has the leverage.”
Mrs. Pelosi was joined by Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland, on a press call to trumpet the legislation, which will be introduced as H.R. 1, the first House bill of the 117th Congress, and likely passed the first week of the new session.
Even with a Biden administration backing the bill, Democrats still will have to contend with Republicans in the Senate.
House Democrats originally passed the sweeping overhaul in March of 2019 on a stark party-line vote.
The massive, ambitious package includes changes on multiple levels.
For campaign finance, the bill includes incentives for politicians to rely on small donations while softening some spending requirements to allow for campaign funds to be used for certain personal expenses. It also includes new disclosure requirements for websites and interest groups.
Regarding voting, Democrats sought to create a national standard for federal voting with paper ballots, to expand voter registration to include same-day and automatic registration policies, and to block some efforts to purge names from voter rolls.
The changes to ethics laws include requiring candidates to release tax returns, ban congressional lawmakers from sitting on corporate boards, and apply a code of ethics on Supreme Court justices.
The bill was blocked in the GOP-run Senate for well over a year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, dubbed it the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.”
Senate Republicans kept pushing back against the package Monday. Mr. McConnell’s office dismissed it as Mrs. Pelosi’s “far-left plan to federalize our elections.”
“The Speaker of the House did not get to personally rewrite election law. And yet, because of the sensible bipartisan steps that some of us championed, our defenses and countermeasures proved to be in radically better shape than in 2016,” Mr. McConnell said earlier this month, celebrating the 2020 elections.
Control of the upper chamber for the next term is still up in the air with two seats up for grabs in a run-off election in Georgia. Democrats need to win both seats to achieve a 50-50 split in the chamber with presumptive Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote.
Democrats plan to ramp up pressure on Mr. McConnell.
“We’re going to make it clear to people that McConnell is the problem here,” Mr. Sarbanes said. “He’s gonna have to defend his position rather than attacking our position.”
Declaration for American Democracy, a liberal activist group that hosted the press call, argued that Mr. Biden could make some of the changes with executive action if the bill can’t get through the Senate.
The group urged Mr. Biden to establish an advisory panel made up of members of various political parties that would screen candidates for the Federal Election Commission and require additional campaign finance disclosures.