After Donald J. Trump lost the election and was impeached for his role in the Capitol riot, democracy preservation groups pointed with urgency to what they called a last, best chance to address the holes in the Constitution exposed by his presidency.
But a suite of legislative responses, like requiring the release of presidential tax returns and barring presidents from channeling government money to their private businesses, is now hostage in the Senate to a more public fight over voting rights. And competing priorities of President Biden’s may ensure that the moment to fortify constitutional guardrails that Mr. Trump plowed through may already have passed.
Most Democrats and a coalition of watchdog groups say the ethics and voting rights sections in a sprawling Senate bill known as the For the People Act, or S.1., should remain intact and entwined. But solid Republican opposition to the legislation’s voter access proposals threatens less debated elements in the measure, part of what was envisioned to be the most comprehensive ethics overhaul since Watergate.
Even Democratic support for the bill has begun to splinter, as the Congressional Black Caucus and some advocacy groups pivot from the full 800-page legislation to pushing for narrower proposals.
“It’s hard to move many things simultaneously through the Senate, and you have a president who is rightly first focused on Covid relief and next focused on infrastructure,” said Max Stier, who leads the Partnership for Public Service, which champions a more effective federal work force. “I worry that important issues like ethics reform don’t make the cut.”