John Sarbanes

‘Dead billionaires’ and a tech Peace Corps? Lawmakers float ideas to fix Congress
First hearing of new modernization committee turns into a brainstorming session

Reps. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., left, and John Sarbanes, D-Md., are seen in between testimony during a Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress business meeting in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer kicked off the first hearing of the new Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress with a plea for a return of something from the past: earmarks.

The Maryland Democrat was the first among 30 lawmakers who offered ideas Tuesday to the temporary and bipartisan panel, which has been charged with making recommendations about how to update Congress for the modern era.

House passes HR 1 government overhaul, sending it back to campaign trail
With Senate not planning to take it up, Democrats plan to continue fight into 2020

Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., led Democrats' effort to draft the HR 1 government overhaul package as chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force. The House passed the measure Friday on a party-line vote. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With passage of HR 1, House Democrats’ political money, ethics and voting overhaul, the mammoth proposal now heads exclusively to the 2020 campaign trail, where candidates in both parties say they believe their message will woo voters.

The House passed the measure 234-193 Friday morning. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the bill’s foe in chief, has assured his side he plans to officially ignore it in his chamber, refusing to bring it for a vote even as the Kentucky Republican said Wednesday that he believed his party could win elections against people who support it.

K Street mounts offensive to HR 1
McConnell, Trump join in opposition

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., concludes a news conference after the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The nation’s business and lobbying interests began publicly mobilizing Tuesday in a coordinated attack against House Democrats’ signature campaign finance, lobbying, ethics and voting overhaul, which the full chamber plans to vote on Friday morning.

More than 300 groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — the top spending organization on federal lobbying — and numerous other state, federal and conservative-leaning organizations wrote to lawmakers attacking the bill for “pushing certain voices, representing large segments of the electorate and our economy, out of the political process altogether.”

Michael Cohen draws intricate picture of how Trump operated his business, personal empire
“Everybody’s job at the Trump Organization was to protect Trump”

Michael Cohen, former attorney for President Donald Trump, testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, described in intimate detail Wednesday how his onetime boss ran his real estate empire and conducted his personal business — from the intense loyalty he demanded of his top advisers, to deploying Trump Organization employees to physically intimidate his enemies, to fudging his financial statements whenever it suited his interests.

Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee warned their Democratic counterparts that Cohen is someone whose testimony could not be trusted — Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the panel’s top Republican, called him an “admitted liar.” Cohen will report to prison in May for a three-year sentence after pleading guilty last year to one count of lying to Congress and multiple counts of financial fraud.

Anti-corruption, campaign finance overhaul bills preview likely 2020 campaign theme
Issue is likely to remain a signature theme for Democrats running for the White House and Congress

Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo.(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Even as House Democrats have made a political overhaul a top priority, numerous lawmakers, including freshman members, have filed their own campaign finance and anti-corruption bills, a sign the topic will dominate into the 2020 campaigns.

Rep. Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat who unseated Republican Mike Coffman last November, introduced his first bill last week: a measure that could lead to disclosures of donors to 501(c)(4) “social welfare” tax-exempt groups that play in politics.

Voting Rights Piece May Take More Time in Ethics Overhaul
“We’re not going to put any fixed deadline on that,” Sarbanes says

Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., says work on a voting rights component of the Democrats’ planned ethics overhaul may require more time. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats who are preparing an overhaul of political and ethics laws, a top priority of the incoming majority, have acknowledged that a component aimed at restoring a key section of the Voting Rights Act may take longer than their speedy timeline for the bill.

Other pieces of the overhaul, which Democratic leaders have said they will designate as House bill 1 in the new Congress, could also run parallel to the main package as a way to garner bipartisan support in the Senate, said Rep. John Sarbanes, the Maryland Democrat who is crafting the bill.

Democrats Go Into 2019 With Ethics Blazing
Pelosi, Sarbanes tease dark money overhaul as the party’s grand opening salvo

Campaign finance is high on Democrats’ agenda. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi rolled out some details last week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A collection of House Democrats is working behind the scenes to tee up the party’s first order of business in the new Congress: a big overhaul of campaign finance, voting and ethics laws.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes offered a sneak peak Friday of what will likely be christened HR 1 in the 116th Congress. Instead of starting from scratch, the bill will draw from numerous existing proposals — including some that have languished for years during GOP control.

How the ‘No Corporate PAC’ Pledge Caught Fire
Three-quarters of Democratic challengers in top races are rejecting corporate PAC money

Democrat Andy Kim rejected corporate PAC money early on in his campaign. (Simone Pathé/CQ Roll Call)

Andy Kim never expected to run for the House. Certainly not against the 19th wealthiest member of Congress.

When he was first considering a bid for New Jersey’s 3rd District, the former national security official didn’t like the questions corporate political action committees wanted candidates to answer. Already troubled by money in politics, Kim decided to reject corporate PAC money.

Comstock, Wexton Hit the Halloween Parade Trail in Virginia’s 10th
Candidates find plenty of support at annual event in Leesburg

Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., greets participants Wednesday before the start of the 62nd annual Kiwanis Halloween Parade in Leesburg, Va. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

LEESBURG, Va. – A Halloween parade here Wednesday night set the stage for one of those rare political moments when two congressional opponents campaign in the same place, at the same time.

But at a time of high partisan and political tensions, there was no noticeable animosity as Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock and Jennifer Wexton, her Democratic challenger in Virginia’s 10th District, stood about 20 feet apart in a field, waiting for nearly an hour for the Kiwanis Halloween Parade to begin. 

America Is at a Midterm Crossroads. Let Us Count the Ways
November results will move us left — or much further right

The direction of the nation’s most contentious and consequential issues hinges on what voters decide Nov. 6. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Next week’s elections will not only determine the balance of power on Capitol Hill but also will seal the fate of the Trump administration’s legislative agenda for the next two years and set the landscape of the 2020 presidential campaigns.

The direction of the nation’s most contentious and consequential issues — health care, immigration, taxes, climate change, trade, gun control, ethics and campaign finance overhauls and oversight of the administration — hinges on what voters decide Nov. 6.