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Government Reform


Government Reform

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.

Legislative Action

One of the first bills I cosponsored in the 116th Congress (2019-2021), and again in the 117th Congress (2021-2023), 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. This bill also includes an amendment I introduced that would direct the Election Assistance Commission to conduct a study on the 2020 elections and compile a list of recommendations to help states better administer vote-by-mail elections. H.R. 1 passed the full House but has not been able to advance in the Senate due to the chamber’s filibuster rules. You can view my full remarks on H.R. 1 here

I believe Congress must strengthen voting rights in response to current efforts by state legislatures that make it harder—particularly for people of color, young adults and individuals with disabilities—to vote. That is why I have cosponsored several bills to increase access to the ballot box, including:
I will continue working with my colleagues to advance these and other measures to ensure that no one, regardless of who they are, what they look like or where they live, faces discrimination or other obstacles upon exercising their right to vote. 

have also cosponsored dozens of bills that would protect our elections from foreign actors and dark money. My cosponsorships include:
  • H.R. 5314, the Protecting Our Democracy Act, a landmark package of reforms that will prevent presidential abuses, restore the government’s system of checks and balances, strengthen Congress’s oversight powers and prevent foreign interference in our elections.
  •  H.R.1334, the DISCLOSE Act, which requires organizations spending money in elections, including super PACS and 501(c)(4) dark money groups, to disclose donors who have given $10,000 or more during an election cycle to restore Americans’ trust in democracy. 

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.

The majority of bills that have passed the House since I returned to Congress 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. Most of the bills I have cosponsored have bipartisan support, and many of my caucuses, such as the Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus that I co-founded, have Republican co-chairs and members.

Oversight of COVID-19 Spending

The trillions of dollars in COVID-19 emergency assistance provided by Congress 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 Policy Co-Chair of the Blue Dog Caucus, a caucus dedicated to pursuing fiscally-responsible policies, I work to provide that oversight and support full transparency on distribution and spending of these funds. To these ends, I advocated for and helped establish a new Inspector General with specific independent responsibility to oversee the funds. Congress also created various reporting requirements in the COVID-19 relief bills to help ensure accountability, and the House created, with my support, a special committee to monitor the administration of federal COVID-19 assistance.