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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The House will vote on a sweeping 571-page bill this week that would strengthen federal ethics laws, expand voting rights and require presidential nominees to release their tax returns.

The big picture: Several Democratic House candidates made the For The People Act, also known has H.R. 1, a hallmark of their 2018 midterm campaigns, and the legislation was formally introduced on the first day of the new Congress.

Why it matters: "We have a broken political system and a corrupt finance system today," Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21 and a longtime proponent of campaign finance reform, told Axios. "H.R. 1 is the most important reform legislation to repair our democracy since the post-Watergate reforms. ... There has never been a bill as broad in its scope and coverage as this bill, and we will work from here."

The bill's key provisions:

  • Campaign finance: Create a small donor, matching-fund system for congressional and presidential candidates; expand the prohibition of foreign political donations; require super PACs and "dark money" political groups to make their donors public; and restructure the Federal Election Commission.
  • Ethics: Mandate that presidents and vice presidents release 10 years of their tax returns; create an ethics code for the Supreme Court; and bar members of Congress from serving on corporate boards.
  • Voting rights: Allow citizens to register to vote online and be registered automatically; require paper ballots in federal elections; make Election Day a federal holiday; prohibit voter roll purging; and end partisan gerrymandering by having independent commissions redraw congressional districts.

The state of play: The bill is expected to easily pass in the House — it's already secured 234 co-sponsors, in addition to Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) who is leading the effort — but it will likely die in the Senate.

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has dedicated part of his career to blocking progressive campaign finance bills, and other Republicans have already vowed to block it. (McConnell describes it as a "sprawling proposal to grow the federal government’s power over Americans' political speech and elections.")

Yes, but: Those who have championed the bill are under no illusion that the legislation will pass this year, Wertheimer said.

  • "We're not operating in any short time frame. We understand these battles are hard and take time, but we also believe that the flow of history is running in our direction," he said. "We know we start out without Republican support, but we will work to build that support."

Wertheimer said Democrats have a 3–5 year strategy for enacting this:

  • "The House passing H.R. 1 will set the stage for enactment in the next Congress," he said. "If we haven’t reached the point by then, the fight will continue in 2021 and 2022. We think in 2023, at the latest, we’ll be able to enact this legislation."

The bottom line: In a September WSJ/NBC poll, 77% of surveyed registered voters said "reducing the influence of special interests and corruption in Washington" is either the most important or a very important issue facing the country.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

500 Hong Kong police officers raid pro-democracy newspaper

Chief Operations Officer Chow Tat Kuen (front 2nd R) is escorted by police from the Apple Daily newspaper offices before being put into a waiting vehicle in Hong Kong on Thursday. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong's Apple Daily said 500 police officers searched the pro-democracy newspaper's offices and arrested five senior executives on Thursday.

Why it matters: The arrests of the paper's chief editor, Ryan Law, along with its chief operating officer, two other editors and the CEO of Next Digital, which operates Apple Daily, were made under China's national security law — which gives the government broad power to limit people's political freedom.

World Bank rejects El Salvador's request to help implement bitcoin

President Nayib Bukele, giving a speech in El Salvador's legislative assembly in San Salvado earlier this month, pushed for bitcoin to become legal tender. Photo: Emerson Flores/APHOTOGRAFIA/Getty Images

The World Bank has rejected the government of El Salvador's request to help the country implement Bitcoin as legal tender, Reuters first reported late Wednesday.

Why it matters: The international lender's rejection could hamper the government's goal of making the digital currency accepted across the country within three months.

Updated 6 hours ago - Science

China launches first astronauts to new space station

The manned Shenzhou-12 spacecraft from China's Manned Space Agency onboard the Long March-2F rocket launches at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, Gansu province, China, on Thursday morning Beijing time. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China's Shenzhou 12 mission carrying three astronauts launched into orbit on Thursday morning Beijing time.

Why it matters: Astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo are set to occupy China's new space station. This will be the country's longest crewed space mission ever and the first in almost five years.