My return to Congress in 2019 was largely prompted by my membership in Issue One’s ReFormers Caucus, a nonpartisan group of more than 200 former Members of Congress, governors, ambassadors and cabinet members. Our Caucus recognized that, with public trust and confidence in government at an all-time low, we had to fix democracy first and return government to the people. These remain my overarching goals.
The very first bill I cosponsored in this 116th Congress was H.R. 1, the For the People Act. This truly revolutionary bill would implement many of the most critical government reform efforts, such as fighting voter suppression, simplifying voting, promoting election security, curbing special interest and dark money in politics, incentivizing smaller and broader donations, increasing transparency and fortifying ethics laws. H.R. 1 passed the full House but has not been taken up by the Senate. You can watch my statement to the Full House in support of the bill here.
I have also cosponsored dozens of bills that would protect our elections from foreign actors and dark money, increase government transparency and oversight and modernize Congress to take on the challenges of the 21st century. My cosponsorships include:
• H.R. 7525, the Crack Down on Dark Money Act, which would limit the amount of money 501(c)(4) nonprofits can spend on elections to close a loophole allowing big-dollar donors to circumvent campaign disclose laws.
• H.R. 6668, the Inspectors General Independence Act, which would prevent the President from removing an inspector general without legitimate cause to ensure independent oversight of federal government agencies.
I also voted for Res. 756, the Moving Our Democracy and Congressional Operations Towards Modernization Resolution. This resolution advances nearly thirty bipartisan recommendations from the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress and seeks to improve House technology, transparency, constituent engagement and staff diversity and retention.
At the end of the day, we must move beyond the politics of 100% that leads too many to support or oppose everything one party proposes or opposes. For my part, my obligations flow to all those I represent in Hawai’i of whatever or no party, and to our country and not to any one person, party or group. There is a place for partisan debate and disagreement on policy grounds and I vote those on their merits. However, we must not allow every issue to descend into a strictly partisan struggle, and my first effort is to consider if there is a way to reach agreement among the various viewpoints.
A majority of bills that have passed the House are bipartisan and deal with a wide range of difficult issues like COVID-19 emergency assistance, gun control, trade agreements, drug costs and labor laws. The majority of the bills I have cosponsored have bipartisan support, and many of my caucuses, such as the Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus which I co-founded, have Republican co-chairs and members.
Oversight of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Spending
The trillions of dollars in COVID-19 emergency assistance Congress has authorized is critical to seeing our country through this crisis. But it must be spent wisely and effectively, and there must be full oversight and vigilance against fraud, waste and abuse.
As the co-chair of the Blue Dog Caucus Task Force on Fiscal Responsibility and Good Government, I work to provide that oversight and support full transparency on distribution and spending of these funds. To these ends, I advocated to establish a new Inspector General with specific independent responsibility to oversee the funds. Congress also created various reporting requirements in the CARES Act to help ensure accountability, and the House created, with my support, a special committee to monitor COVID-19 stimulus funds.