Voting 220-210, with no Republican support, the House of Representatives today approved H.R. 1, the so-called “For the People Act of 2021.”
The purpose of H.R. 1 is to discourage, as much as possible, disfavored groups (such as the National Right to Life Committee) from communicating with supporters about officeholders. This bill would expose citizens who support such efforts to harassment and intimidation, and it would smother organizations in multiple, burdensome layers of record keeping and reporting requirements—all backed by the threat of civil and criminal sanctions.
“This bill is nothing more than a thinly-disguised attempt to secure power by pro-abortion Democrats,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. “Democrat leaders are happy to violate the First Amendment and penalize Americans and their right to free speech if it means that they can silence opposing voices.”
Enactment of H.R. 1 would not be a curb on corruption but is itself a type of corruption. The bill is an abuse of the lawmaking power, where incumbent lawmakers will be able to employ the threat of criminal sanctions, among other deterrents, to reduce private speech regarding the actions of the lawmakers themselves. The bill would also codify a vague and expansive definition of “the functional equivalent of express advocacy,” that applies to communications that “when taken as a whole, it can be interpreted by a reasonable person only as advocating the election or defeat of a candidate for election for Federal office.”
“There is little that an organization could say by way of commentary on the votes or positions taken by an incumbent member of Congress that would not fall within H.R. 1’s expansive definition of ‘express advocacy,’” said Jennifer Popik, J.D, director of Federal Legislation for National Right to Life. “It is paramount that organizations like National Right to Life are able to inform our grassroots supporters about the votes or positions of represented officials without being subject to harassment.”
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The bill also would destroy the bipartisan composition of the Federal Election Commission by eliminating a commissioner—upsetting the current balance. The changes to the FEC would significantly increase the likelihood that the agency’s decisions would be politically motivated.
“H.R. 1 is pernicious, unprincipled, and constitutionally defective legislation,” said Tobias. “This legislation is a blatant political attack on First Amendment rights and on the rights of National Right to Life, our state affiliates, our members, and donors.”