Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
Wanted to be sure you saw yesterday's article in The Hill on a speech House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered at the Georgetown University Law Center on efforts to renew the American people's faith in government. To read the article, click here or see below; click here to read text of Whip Hoyer’s speech:
Hoyer Launches Effort to Battle Public Distrust in Congress
By Mike Lillis
July 11, 2016
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer launched a campaign Monday designed to renew the public's flagging trust in government.
With polls showing a widespread disapproval of Congress –– and primary voters in both parties showing broad enthusiasm for outsider candidates such as Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) –– Hoyer said the problem has reached crisis-level and needs to be tackled head on.
"We need to give our people hope that we can fix what’s broken in Washington –– that we can restore their faith in Congress, renew their faith in government to be an institution that plays a positive role in their lives."
The Maryland Democrat placed much of the blame on the Republicans, who have blocked scores of President Obama's judicial nominees in the Senate, and struggled to pass even the most rudimentary bills to keep the government running in the House.
But he also pointed to several external factors he says have exacerbated the public's distrust, including a campaign finance system awash in anonymous money, the erosion of voting rights protections and the gerrymandering of congressional districts by partisans on the state level.
"All of these problems have resulted in a larger one: a Congress that has become paralyzed by partisanship and is unable to respond to those it serves," Hoyer said.
"There are a lot of good people in Congress on both sides of the aisle, but together we are not functioning."
Hoyer then laid out a four-point plan to revive public confidence in government institutions and elected officials.
First, he wants to overhaul the campaign finance system by placing new caps on contributions and requiring full disclosure from donors. Promoting a system fueled by small donors, Hoyer said, will "begin to renew the trust citizens have that their voices are being heard."
Second, he wants to restore the voting protections eliminated by the Supreme Court's 2013 decision gutting the Voting Rights Act –– a ruling that's empowered a number of GOP-led states to adopt higher hurdles to the ballot box.
“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.
Third, he is pushing to change the way congressional lines are drawn. Hoyer, a former Maryland state legislator, acknowledged that both Democrats and Republicans have participated in the sport of gerrymandering districts for partisan benefit, but urged both parties to come together to rein in the practice.
"Today, in most parts of the country, congressional district boundaries are drawn by the politicians themselves. I know –– I’ve done it," he said. "We all have, and I understand that neither party wants to be the first to step away from doing so, leaving itself vulnerable to the other. That’s why we need a national solution that applies the same rules to everyone."
Finally, Hoyer wants to modernize the government's technology infrastructure so it's more amenable to public needs.
"If we can make government as responsive to citizens as our best online businesses are to our consumers we could renew the faith of our people," he said.
If recent polls are any indication, Hoyer has a steep climb to restore the public trust in government.
A survey conducted this month by the Economist and YouGov found that just 11 percent of voters like the way Congress works. And just 14 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is doing its job, while 76 percent disapprove, according to poll averages compiled by RealClearPolitics.
On top of that, almost all of the legislative reforms Hoyer is floating are opposed by the Republicans who control Congress, meaning they're likely to die by the same partisan gridlock they're intended to eliminate.
Hoyer acknowledged that making changes will be tough, given Congress's current makeup. He's calling on voters to reject those lawmakers who cling to ideology and replace them with candidates willing to compromise.
"If our voters support candidates who believe compromise is essential, and reject those who hold otherwise, we will be better able to meet the challenges and new threats and changes that the global economy presents," Hoyer said.