On January fourth of this year, Representative Steve Cohen [D-TN] introduced H.J.Res. 4 into congress. It is a joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment that will limit the pardon power of the president. Specifically, the amendment would prohibit the president from granting a pardon to him- or herself, to members of their family, to current or past members of their administration, or to a paid campaign employee. The amendment would also invalidate any pardons issued for corrupt purposes.
This comes after former President Donald Trump’s discussions of possibly pardoning family members and Rudy Giuliani, as well as successfully pardoning members of his administration. Yet, he is not the first president to use the pardoning power he has. Former President George H.W. Bush used his power to pardon individuals who partook in the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan era. Former President Bill Clinton also used his power to pardon his brother Roger Clinton.
This new amendment could benefit democracy as pardon power is one of the least constrained powers of the president. After seeing how that power can be used for personal benefit, perhaps it is time to impart regulations to prevent the president from using his or her powers to benefit themselves, family members, and close associates.
H.J.Res. 4 could be the first amendment to check pardon power and prevent future presidents from using that power to aid those they are close with anyone who has committed crimes against the United States. As of now, the resolution is still in the first stage of the legislative process, meaning it must be reviewed by the House Judiciary Committee before being sent to the House or Senate for a vote. There are also no details on the likelihood of Representative Cohen’s bill passing yet.
If the bill does make it to the House or Senate for a vote, there are certain steps citizens can take to prevent the bill from passing or push it. Citizens can call their local Representatives or Senators to share their opinions on the bill and why they should vote for or against the bill. Contact information for current elected Representatives can be found here and contact information for Senators can be found here.