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Misleading Meme on First Three Bills by Democrats


Quick Take

An old Facebook meme from April recently went viral again, wrongly identifying the first three bills introduced by House Democrats in January. The first three Democratic bills did not seek to impeach the president, end the Electoral College or provide “$54 billion in foreign aid.”


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A Facebook meme falsely claims “the first 3 bills introduced in the House by Democrats” sought to “impeach the president,” “ban the Electoral College” and give “$54 billion in foreign aid.” 

There are often several dozen pieces of legislation introduced on the first day of a new Congress. On Jan. 3, the first day of the 116th Congress, 264 bills and resolutions were introduced in the House, and 116 of them were sponsored by Democrats. According to the Congressional Record, which lists the bills in order, the first three bills introduced by a House Democrat were H.R. 1, H.R. 21 and H.R. 31.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called H.R. 1the first piece of major legislation that we will consider in the new Democratic Majority.” The bill — For the People Act of 2019 — sought to “expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and strengthen ethics rules for public servants.” It passed the House in March, but the Republican-controlled Senate has yet to take any action on the bill. 

The second bill, H.R. 21, known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act, allocated funds to several federal agencies to end the partial government shutdown that lasted from Dec. 22, 2018, until Jan. 25, 2019. The House passed the bill the same day it was introduced, but the partial government shutdown didn’t end until the Senate and House reached an agreement later that month.

The third bill was H.R. 31, or the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019, which outlined “additional sanctions and financial restrictions on institutions and individuals related to the conflict in Syria.” It passed the House on Jan. 22, but later stalled in the Senate. 

None of the first three Democratic bills mentioned impeachment or the Electoral College, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act did not contain “$54 billion in foreign aid.”

The Facebook meme — which was originally posted in April of this year and is trending again on the social media platform — cherry-picks two bills on impeachment and the Electoral College that were introduced by individual House Democrats on the first day of Congress, but were not priorities of the Democratic leadership at the time.

On Jan. 3, Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, introduced H.J. Res. 7, a joint resolution that proposes a constitutional amendment to effectively abolish the Electoral College and require “the President and Vice President to be elected directly by the people of the states and the District of Columbia.” On the same day, Rep. Brad Sherman of California introduced a simple resolution to impeach President Donald Trump.

But neither proposal was among the first three bills introduced by Democrats. The resolutions were referred to committee, but no other action has been taken on either one — indicating they were not priorities of the House Democratic leadership.

The meme, which features a picture of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, misleadingly suggests that the Democratic leaders tried to impeach Trump as early as January. In fact, Pelosi announced the start of an impeachment inquiry on Sept. 24 after learning of a whistleblower complaint that accused Trump of pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate a potential political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden

As for the meme’s claim about foreign aid, H.R. 21 — the Democratic-sponsored appropriations bill — allocated $54.4 billion for the “Department of State, foreign operations and related programs.” But, as we wrote when Trump made a similar claim about foreign aid, $16 billion of those funds was specifically for State Department operations — not for foreign countries. Also, $54.4 billion was the same amount approved by the Republican-led appropriations committees in 2018.

The meme also makes the claim that Democrats introduced “nothing on healthcare or our safety.” Several pieces of legislation introduced by Democrats on Jan. 3 addressed health care, including: H.R. 96, which sought to amend a law on dental care for veterans; H.J. Res. 17, which proposed amending the U.S. Constitution to declare health care as a right; and H.R. 117, which established grants to research and prevent infant mortality.

The meme isn’t clear on what it means by “our safety,” but a joint resolution also passed the House on Jan. 3 that provided funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.

Sources

Kiely, Eugene, et al. “The Whisteblower Complaint Timeline.” FactCheck.org. Updated 31 Oct 2019.

Congressional Record. “Public Bills and Resolutions; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 1.” 3 Jan 2019.

Hoyer Statement on the Introduction of H.R. 1: The For The People Act.” Press release. House of Representatives. 4 Jan 2019.

U.S. House. “H.R. 1, For the People Act of 2019.” (as introduced in the Senate 14 Mar 2019).

U.S. House. “H.R. 21, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019.” (as introduced in the Senate 8 Jan 2019.) 

U.S. House. “H.R. 31, Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019.” (as reported to the Senate 3 Jun 2019).

Farley, Robert. “RNC Misleads on ‘Immoral’ Democratic Bill.” 7 Jan 2019.