Politics

Hoyer Calls for Overhauls To Reduce Lack of Trust in Government

He focuses on changes to campaign finance, redistricting, voting rights and technology

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Government needs to fix its own problems before it can truly address the issues that plague the country, House Minority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Monday.   

"We can’t fully tap into our economic opportunities if we don’t make sure government works too," the Maryland Democrat said in a speech at the Georgetown University Law Center.   

Hoyer outlined the need for an overhaul of the campaign finance system and redistricting process, enhancements in voting rights laws and improvements in government technology as key changes needed.   

"House Democrats are ready to push for reforms in all four areas that I outlined," he said.   

Many of the ideas Hoyer discussed came from members of the House Democratic caucus who testified at hearings on how to update his "Make it in America" job creation plan. Hoyer unveiled the latest phase of that plan, which was first launched in 2010, in Baltimore last month.   

[ Hoyer Expands Job Creation Push ] Regarding campaign finance changes, Hoyer cited success of small-donor participation in President Barack Obama's and Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaigns and the need to replicate that in campaigns down the ballot.   

Congress has become too polarized with too many safe seats on both sides of the aisle, Hoyer said, calling for changes in the redistricting processes that prevent politicians from redrawing their own districts.   

"I understand that neither party wants to be the first in doing so, leaving itself vulnerable to the other," he said, suggesting "national redistricting standards that takes partisanship out of the equation."  

The Maryland Democrat also called for changes to voting rights laws, including automatic voter registration, expanded early voting, options to vote by mail and tools to combat voter suppression.  

"Throughout our history, too many people lost their lives to secure access to the ballot box for any eligible voter to be turned away," Hoyer said.   

Government also needs to invest in its own technology. Hoyer spoke about a bill he introduced earlier this year to create an Information Technology Modernization Fund to pay for upgrades to government agencies' technology systems.  

The measure calls for a one-time $3 billion investment in the fund that would pay for the initial projects, the savings from which would then keep investments flowing into the fund.   

"We need to make sure that federal departments and agencies are as connected and adaptive as possible," Hoyer said. "And we need to make certain they are protected against cyber threats. Americans won't trust government to help if they don't trust its systems to protect their private data."  

Hoyer offered a few other proposals to compliment the four main government overhauls he outlined. Those ideas included restoring earmarks and preventing an individual senator from being able to put a hold on a nomination for months, obstructing the confirmation of executive branch nominations.   

"It's not an ideological agenda," Hoyer concluded. "It's a pragmatic agenda."  

Contact McPherson at lindseymcpherson@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter @lindsemcpherson. 

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