Congress returns to work next week. Spring Break is over.
Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent a letter to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) asking to be allowed a much broader debate on pending ethics and lobbying reform than the House leaders, all Republicans, have planned.
Background: The House is poised to take up ethics legislation. Before the break, the GOP controlled House blocked a series of amendments mainly from Democrats that would have strengthened the proposed ethics and loobying measures.
Pelosi to Hastert: Lobby Reform Deserves a Fair and Open Debate
Washington, D.C. – House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi sent the following letter to Speaker Hastert today requesting that there be open and fair debate next week when the House considers lobbying reform legislation.
The text of the letter follows:
April 21, 2006
The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
United States House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Speaker Hastert:
Next week, the House is scheduled to take up one of the most significant matters of this Congress – lobbying and ethics reform. This critical legislation will have a direct impact on how the House addresses legislative issues affecting the people of this nation, from gas prices to Medicare prescription drugs, as well as on the standards under which Members must conduct themselves.
The legislation reportedly being prepared by the Republican leadership for next week is limited in scope and impact. Given the high level of interest in this subject, as evidenced by the number of bills introduced on lobbying and ethics reform by Members from both parties, there are certainly other areas of reform that ought to be included in the debate during floor consideration.
The House of Representatives is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, and any debate on open government must not restrict the discussion of serious proposals. Accordingly, on behalf of the Democratic Members of the House, and all others who may wish to address areas of abuse not sufficiently covered in the Republican bill, I am calling on you to use your authority as Speaker to direct the Rules Committee to report an unrestricted rule on lobby reform.
In particular, the rule for consideration of lobby reform should make in order a vote on H.R. 4682, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2006, which I introduced together with 162 other Democrats in January. This legislation contains specific proposals for addressing the lobbying scandals and other ethical issues that have tainted Congress in recent years, including strong and permanent gift and travel restrictions, doubling the restrictions on the revolving door between Members and lobbying jobs, shutting down the “K Street��? project in which jobs in lobbying firms were traded for legislative favors, requiring charter fare for charter flights, and more extensive disclosure of lobbyist activity.
In addition, the Democratic lobbying and ethics reform proposal requires changes in the way Congress does its business in order to end practices that subvert the open and fair legislative process, by ending the “dead of night��? legislating used to pass crucial and complex legislation without full public or Member review, requiring earmark reform, and mandating open conference committee meetings so special interest provisions cannot be slipped into bills without public scrutiny.
Mr. Speaker, we have many substantive disagreements on matters of public policy, but on this issue – assuring that debate and consideration of lobbying and congressional reform is conducted in a fair and open manner – I hope that we can agree. It would be insulting to the ideals of democracy if debate on a bill called the “The Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act��? were to be conducted under restrictive rules that limit discussion and close the legislative process.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.