It would also speed up lawsuits over congressional subpoenas so that stonewalling by the executive branch cannot run out the clock on oversight efforts; require the Justice Department to give Congress logs of contacts with White House officials; and strengthen the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in campaign politics at work.
The legislation’s path has also been slowed by uncertainty among Senate Democrats about the Biden administration’s support. The White House on Thursday morning issued a statement of administration policy that supported the bill, citing “the formidable, but essential, challenge of reinforcing the norms and safeguards that prevent our democracy from eroding.”
Ian Bassin, a founder and the executive director of Protect Democracy, which supports the bill and worked with House Democrats on developing some of its provisions, praised the White House for supporting the legislation even though it would curb executive authority.
“The Biden administration deserves major credit here for doing something executives rarely do: agreeing to support legislative curbs on their own power,” Mr. Bassin said, adding: “Now that the White House has announced its support, it needs to work with the Senate promptly to enact these provisions.”
Still, the White House statement was not unqualified. It included a vague caveat that the administration would continue to work with Congress to ensure the bill would uphold “the longstanding interests of the executive branch that are essential to effective governance and efficient use of taxpayer resources and consistent with our constitutional structure” without specifying any particular provisions it had concerns about.
The White House had spent months negotiating with House Democrats, who dropped some of their original ideas in response to its constitutional or policy objections before introducing the package in September. But Democratic lawmakers insisted on keeping some provisions with which the administration had expressed concerns, according to people familiar with the matter, including making it harder for presidents to fire inspectors general.
Throughout a nearly four-hour debate on the bill and amendments, House Democrats portrayed its provisions as necessary to fix weaknesses in the American system of separation of powers that the Trump administration had exposed.