Republicans are pushing a measure that would require more congressional oversight of how and when President Donald Trump’s businesses are used for business purposes, and Democrats are blasting it as an attempt to muzzle congressional oversight.
The House Republican leadership unveiled its first major legislative initiative this week, a bill to prevent future presidents from using their office to benefit businesses that are owned by foreign nationals.
The measure would prohibit future presidents or vice presidents from serving as business owners and would require that any business owned by a foreign national that received money from the federal government to do business in the United States have to disclose its owners’ identities to federal authorities.
The bill, known as the Ethics in Government Act, was introduced by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who is also chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
The legislation has been praised by former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who said it’s the best we can do to stop the president from benefiting his businesses.
Cole said he expects to introduce another bill to impose similar requirements on future presidents, and he wants to make it a priority.
Cole told reporters on Tuesday that he’s trying to ensure that we can hold our government accountable when it comes to our democracy.
But Democrats said the bill would likely be watered down in a way that would hurt lawmakers who represent districts that Trump won by a large margin in the 2016 election.
The White House said the measure would provide a greater level of accountability to Congress, and the legislation will require congressional oversight over the use of federal funds for private business, not just presidential business.
“There’s a great deal of concern about the impact of this bill,” White House press secretary Lindsay Walters said on Tuesday.
“It would impose onerous restrictions on Congress and our ability to function, which is why it is so important that the Senate and House pass similar legislation.”
The bill is part of the broader GOP effort to reform the federal tax code in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, which saw Trump win by a record margin and led to an impeachment trial.
Cole and Rep. Jim Jordan (R) of Ohio have been leading the charge to change the tax code to allow corporations to write off the tax costs of their operations.
Democrats have long criticized the tax reform push, arguing that it would make it harder for businesses to compete and that the bill will likely fail to pass.
But Republicans have vowed to pass the legislation without amendments, including the repeal of a 20-percent tax on imports and a 15 percent tax on overseas profits.
The effort has also been overshadowed by the ongoing probes into Russian interference in the election, with Trump and his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort under scrutiny for allegedly failing to disclose payments to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in an effort to influence the election.
Cole’s office told The Hill that Cole and Jordan have been working with other House members to craft the legislation and are still finalizing details.
Cole declined to say when the bill is expected to become law.