Durbin, Duckworth Join Entire Senate Democratic Caucus To Introduce For The People Act

Landmark bill would help repair our broken politics, restore the promise of American democracy, and make government work for the people

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today joined U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and every member of the Senate Democratic Caucus to introduce the For the People Act — a sweeping package of comprehensive reforms that would fix our broken politics and make government work for the people.  The landmark legislation, a companion to H.R. 1 in the U.S. House of Representatives, aims to restore the promise of American democracy by making it easier, not harder, to vote; ending the dominance of big money in politics; and ensuring that public officials work for the public interest. Earlier this month, the House passed H.R. 1 by a vote of 234-193.

This comprehensive democracy reform plan includes Durbin’s Fair Elections Now Act—a bill that he has introduced in every Congress since 2007.  Durbin’s bill would provide qualified candidates for the U.S. Senate with grants, matching funds, and broadcast vouchers from the Freedom From Influence Fund to replace traditional campaign fundraising. In return, participating candidates would agree to limit their campaign spending to the amounts raised from small-dollar donors plus the amounts provided from the Fund.

“The For the People Act is about a simple choice: whether you want the government to be in the hands of big money or the American people,” Durbin said.  “I’m glad that this comprehensive democracy reform plan also includes my Fair Elections Now Act, which would create a voluntary, small-donor public financing system for Senate candidates who agree to raise only small-dollar contributions.  If we don’t want a Congress filled just with multimillionaires and billionaires—or people who are beholden to them—we need to make it possible for more people to run and win.  I’m thankful to my colleagues, Senators Udall and Merkley, for working with me to include the Fair Elections Now Act in this important legislative package.”

“Expanding voting rights, getting big money out of our politics and strengthening our anti-corruption laws are all commonsense reforms needed to restore trust in our elections and our government,” Duckworth said.  “The For the People Act deserves a vote in the Senate, and I’m proud to be working with my colleagues Senators Durbin, Udall and Merkley in working to pass this critical bill.” 

The full text of the legislation is available here. A one-page summary of the bill is available here. A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here. A list of supportive organizations is available here

The For the People Act would:

Make It Easier, Not Harder, To Vote

  • Improve Access and Secure Voting Rights – Expands access to the ballot box by taking aim at institutional barriers to voting, such as cumbersome registration systems, limited voting hours and many other roadblocks. The bill creates automatic voter registration across the country, ensures that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full rights restored, expands voting by mail, promotes early voting and online voter registration, and modernizes the U.S. voting system.
  • Promote Integrity – Fights back against the assault on voting rights by reaffirming Congress’s commitment to restoring the Voting Rights Act, prohibiting voter roll purges like those seen in Ohio, Georgia and elsewhere, and ensuring that discriminatory voter ID laws do not prevent Americans citizens from exercising their rights. This bill would also end partisan gerrymandering to prevent politicians from picking their voters and making Americans feel like their voices do not count.
  • Bolster Election Security – Ensures that American elections are decided by American voters without interference by foreign adversaries. The bill creates a national strategy to protect our democratic institutions, increases oversight over election vendors, and enhances federal support for state voting system security upgrades, including paper ballot voting systems.

End The Dominance of Big Money In Politics

  • Guarantee Disclosure – Shines a light on dark money in politics by requiring all political organizations to disclose their donors, which will break the nesting-doll system that allows big-money contributors and special interests to hide their spending in networks of so-called “social welfare” organizations; expands “Stand By Your Ad” provisions; and harmonizes internet disclosure rules with existing broadcast rules.
  • Empower Citizens – Builds a 21st century campaign finance system to increase the power of small donors, reaffirms Congress’s authority to regulate money in politics, and pushes back against Citizens United. This bill levels the political playing field for everyday Americans, creating a multiple matching system for small donations and allowing the American people to exercise their due influence in a post-Citizens United world, while reaffirming that Congress should have the authority to regulate money in politics. The new system of citizen-owned elections will break special interests’ stranglehold on Congress and the White House and lay the groundwork for an agenda that serves the American people.
  • Strengthen Oversight – Repairs and restructures the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to break gridlock and enhance enforcement mechanisms, tightens rules on super PACs, and repeals policy riders that block sensible disclosure measures.

Ensure Public Officials Work For The Public Interest

    • Fortify Ethics Laws and Slow the Revolving Door – Breaks the influence of special interests in Washington and increases accountability by expanding conflict of interest law and divestment requirements, slows the revolving door, prohibits members of Congress from serving on for-profit corporate boards, limits first class travel for government officials, ends taxpayer-financed settlements for officeholders, and requires presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.

  • Impose Greater Ethics Enforcement – Gives teeth to federal ethics oversight by overhauling the Office of Government Ethics, requires the Supreme Court to create a new ethical code, and closes registration loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents.