House Democrats unveil reforms to ‘prevent future presidential abuses’

Taken together, the proposals represent the Democrats’ long-awaited attempt to correct what they have identified as systematic deficiencies during the course of President Trump’s tenure and impeachment, in the style of changes Congress adopted after Richard Nixon left office.

Unlike the post-Watergate reforms, however, which took years to enact, today’s House Democrats have collected their proposed changes under one bill reflecting several measures that have been percolating piecemeal through the House.

“It is time for Congress to strengthen the bedrock of our democracy and ensure our laws are strong enough to withstand a lawless president,” the chairs of the seven House committees who curated the legislation said in a joint statement. “These reforms are necessary not only because of the abuses of this president, but because the foundation of our democracy is the rule of law and that foundation is deeply at risk.”

It’s unclear precisely when lawmakers would take up the legislation, though it will almost certainly be after November’s election or sometime in the new year.

The Protecting Our Democracy Act, as it is titled, is being rolled out almost a year to the day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the House would pursue impeachment charges against the president. It faces long odds in the current Congress, where the Republican-led Senate is all but guaranteed to eschew the legislation.

Yet its release less than six weeks before Election Day signals the changes congressional Democrats envision pursuing under a possible Joe Biden presidency, or if the party seizes a majority of Senate seats in November.

The measure includes several provisions to speed up judicial rulings on congressional subpoenas and emoluments cases, in which the House or Senate alleges that a federal official violated constitutional prohibitions on accepting gifts without congressional permission. The bill states that both types of cases should be decided by a panel of three judges, and that any appeals would go directly to the Supreme Court.

The slow process of judicial review has been a frequent stumbling block for House Democrats attempting to subpoena Trump administration officials, leading the party to decide to avoid court battles entirely during Trump’s impeachment process, for fear of getting bogged down. A suit the House filed last summer to enforce a subpoena against Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn is still working through the appeals process; last month, a federal appeals court panel in Washington, D.C. ruled 2-to-1 against the House, arguing that Congress hadn’t passed a law authorizing itself to sue to enforce subpoenas. The bill unveiled Wednesday expressly gives Congress that authority.

The package mirrors several measures to better regulate the relationship between the White House and Justice Department, which Democrats believe has been too cozy under the leadership of Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr. It reflects a proposal from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) requiring the attorney general to keep a log of certain communications with the White House and periodically share it with the DOJ inspector general and Congress, and a bill from

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House panel slams Boeing, FAA for 737 Max crashes while calling for reforms

A House committee issued a scathing report Wednesday questioning whether Boeing and government regulators have recognized problems that caused two deadly 737 Max jet crashes and whether either will be willing to make significant changes to fix them.

Staff members from the Democrat-controlled Transportation Committee blamed the crashes that killed 346 people on the “horrific culmination” of failed government oversight, design flaws and a lack of action at Boeing despite knowing about problems.

The committee identified deficiencies in the Federal Aviation Administration approval process for new jetliners. But the agency and Boeing have said certification of the Max complied with FAA regulations, the 246-page report said.

“The fact that a compliant airplane suffered from two deadly crashes in less than five months is clear evidence that the current regulatory system is fundamentally flawed and needs to be repaired,” the staff wrote in the report released early Wednesday.

The report highlights the need for legislation to fix the approval process and deal with the FAA’s delegation of some oversight tasks to aircraft manufacturer employees, said Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon.

“Obviously the system is inadequate,” DeFazio said. “We will be adopting significant reforms.”

He wouldn’t give details, saying committee leaders are in talks with Republicans about legislation. He said the committee won’t scrap the delegation program, and he hopes to reach agreement on reforms before year’s end.

A Senate committee on Wednesday could make changes to a bipartisan bill giving the FAA more control over picking company employees who sign off on safety decisions. One improvement may be that a plane with significant changes from previous models would need more FAA review.

The House report stems from an 18-month investigation into the October 2018 crash of Lion Air flight 610 in Indonesia and the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 in March of 2019. The Max was grounded worldwide shortly after the Ethiopia crash. Regulators are testing planes with revamped flight control software, and Boeing hopes to get the Max flying again late this year or early in 2021.

Relatives of people who died in the crashes said the report exposes the truth.

“It was an unforgivable crime, and Boeing still wants to return the aircraft to service quickly,” said Ababu Amha, whose wife was a flight attendant on the Ethiopia Airlines jet. “All those responsible for the accident should pay the price for their actions.”

Paul Njoroge of Toronto, whose wife, three young children and mother-in-law died in the Ethiopia crash while traveling to Kenya to see grandparents, said the report revealed Boeing’s culture of putting profit ahead of safety.

“There are instances in the report where some employees within Boeing tried to raise safety concern issues. But their concerns would be slammed by people within Boeing,” said Njoroge, who is among those suing the company. “This is an organization that should focus more on delivering safe planes.”

Eighteen months after the crash, Njoroge said he still relies on support from others. “It just doesn’t go away. It never leaves

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