WAND joins more than two dozen organizations in calling on Congress to pass the Protecting Our Democracy Act (PODA). This historic bill addresses abuses of presidential power; checks and balances, accountability, and transparency; and foreign interference in elections.
From the founding of the United States, the separation of powers has aimed to preserve the independence of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches and enhance transparency in a government led by the people. The Protecting Our Democracy Act is a timely effort to realign our current processes with the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution.
Notably, PODA would serve to strengthen Congress’s ability to oversee the executive branch, require that “inspectors general are qualified and empowered to hold federal agencies accountable without fear of reprisal,” ensure “whistleblowers can continue shining light on corruption and abuses of power that betray the public trust by enhancing protections against retaliation, providing legal defenses for whistleblowers against civil and criminal liability, and allowing whistleblowers to have their day in court,” and “reinforce Congress’s constitutional powers over spending and the power of the purse.”
Dear Members of Congress:
The undersigned organizations, on behalf of the millions of Americans our groups collectively represent, write to urge you to support and pass the Protecting Our Democracy Act.
For decades, congressional authority has been undermined by the executive branch, diminishing the ability of Congress to fulfill its constitutional duties, to protect the rule of law, and to hold all presidents accountable for overreaches and abuses of power. The last time Congress passed significant reform to protect our democracy from abuses of executive power was after the Watergate scandal. The time has come for new guardrails to reassert Congress’ role as a coequal branch of government.
Today, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers have an interest in restoring the checks and balances entrusted to them in our Constitution. The Protecting Our Democracy Act would do just that by restoring the powers the Founders vested in the legislative branch to serve as a check on the executive without infringing upon the president’s constitutional powers.
Among other reforms, this historic bill would:
Strengthen Congress’s ability to oversee the executive branch by fortifying congressional subpoena power by providing expedited consideration of subpoena enforcement by courts, so the executive branch cannot run out the clock on congressional oversight;
Ensure inspectors general are qualified and empowered to hold federal agencies accountable without fear of reprisal by requiring the president to have “good cause” for removing an inspector general and enhancing reporting requirements when there is a vacancy;
Ensure whistleblowers can continue shining light on corruption and abuses of power that betray the public trust by enhancing protections against retaliation, providing legal defenses for whistleblowers against civil and criminal liability, and allowing whistleblowers to have their day in court;
Reinforce Congress’s constitutional powers over spending and the power of the purse by requiring the Office of Management and Budget to make public basic information about the management of federal funds, and reporting to Congress to ensure those funds are spent in accordance with the law;
Prevent political interference with the U.S. Department of Justice by putting a permanent, statutory requirement in place that will ensure transparency and accountability related to their communications with the White House;
Strengthen the Hatch Act to protect federal agencies from being used for political purposes and ensure senior political appointees are held accountable under the law the same way other federal employees are.
Prevent abuse of the president’s pardon power by increasing transparency of the pardon process, prohibiting self-pardons by the president, and clarifying that pardons are “official acts” for the purposes of federal bribery statute;
Provide for enforcement of the domestic and foreign Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution, to prevent a president from profiting from payments by foreign or domestic governments; and
Secure our elections from foreign interference, by ensuring political campaigns are informed of the laws banning foreign interference and are prepared to comply and report any attempts of foreign interference.
In this perilous moment for our republic, we believe it should be a top priority for this Congress to repair our democracy, including ensuring that no future president is permitted to abuse the power of their office.
If enacted, the Protecting Our Democracy Act would protect against future presidential abuses of power, restore the integrity of our democratic institutions, and ensure transparency from the chief executive.
Given the urgency of this crisis and for these reasons, we call on you to swiftly pass this critical legislation.