On a party line vote, the House Wednesday approved a lobby bill in response to various ethical scandals, no better than a previously passed Senate version.
The GOP leaders declined to include some tough provisions that would have made the bill worthy of being called a reform measure.
The legislation passed on a party line vote. Republicans were ayes, Democrats, nays
The theory of the no voters was that no bill was better than a bad bill.
Release from the Speaker
Speaker Hastert: House Republicans Bring Greater Transparency and Accountability to Washington through
Lobbying and Earmark Reform
(Washington, D.C.) Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) today issued the following statement praising passage of H.R. 4975, the Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act. The bill passed 217-213. Speaker Hastert voted in support of the bill's passage.
"Democracy won't work if citizens don't trust their government. Elected officials must be held to the highest ethical standards and have the confidence of people back home, and House Republicans understand that we have a duty to do everything we can to keep the trust and confidence of our constituents.
"The bill we passed today will reform the lobbying and earmark process to bring greater transparency and accountability to our nation's Capitol and goes further than just prosecuting the bad actors. We have moved quickly in our reform minded commitment to getting this done. The 192 Democrats who voted against this bill made clear their opposition to our commitment to bring greater transparency and accountability to Washington and their contentment with business as usual."
RELEASE FROM DEMOCRACY 21, AGAINST THE BILL
Democracy 21 Press Release May 3, 2006 www.democracy21.org
Statement of Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer on House
Passage Today of Sham Lobbying and Ethics Legislation
A majority of House Members voted today to perpetrate a fraud on the American people.
The House-passed bill is designed to create the false and misleading impression that the House is dealing with its corruption and lobbying scandals, when the House is doing nothing of the sort.
Representatives who voted for H.R. 4975 voted, in essence, to preserve the corrupt status quo in the House and to endorse convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's way of life on Capitol Hill.
The House-passed bill is an outright deceit that does not change the way lobbyists and House Members take care of each others interests at the expense of the American people and does not strengthen the discredited House ethics rules and their ineffectual enforcement.
The pro-reform vote on H.R. 4975 was a ''no'' vote.
Democracy 21 applauds the outstanding leadership Representatives Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Marty Meehan (D-MA) provided, once again, for the country in fighting for real and effective lobbying and ethics reforms to protect the integrity of our democracy.
RELEASE FROM GOP LEADER
BLUNT COMMENDS PASSAGE OF LOBBYING REFORM
"INCREASING ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY"
WASHINGTON--- House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) today praised passage of legislation that will work to reform the lobbying process through increased accountability and transparency.
"Chairman Dreier and the Rules Committee have worked hard to produce a comprehensive lobbying reform package that will strengthen requirements for lobbyist disclosure while improving upon several of the rules that have been in place since the Republicans gained control of the House," Blunt said.
"This legislation will hold lobbyists and Members accountable for their actions," Blunt added. "The Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act will help restore Americans' trust in their legislature, and I'm pleased a bipartisan group voted to solve a bipartisan problem."
The Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act (H.R. 4975) will:
· Strengthen lobbyist disclosure requirements by increasing the amount and type of information that must be disclosed, making the disclosure more frequent, and enhancing penalties for failing to disclose the necessary information;
· Require greater transparency in employment negotiations between members and staff and outside entities;
· Ensure that Members cannot condition official acts based on the employment decision of an outside entity;
· Suspend privately-funded travel for the remainder of the 109th Congress while the Ethics Committee studies alternatives and makes recommendations on gifts and travel rules;
· Strengthen oversight by empowering the House Inspector General to conduct random audits of lobbying reports and refer lobbyist violations to the Justice Department for prosecution;
· Reform the earmarking process to bring greater disclosure, transparency, and accountability to the way Congress does business; and,
· Require members of Congress to forfeit retirement benefits if convicted of bribery or acting as a foreign agent, including conspiracy charges.
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Emanuel, Meehan Issue Second Call on Hastert, Boehner for Immediate Reform of House Ethics Rules
WASHINGTON, DC - Today, U.S. Representatives Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and Representative Marty Meehan (D-MA), released a second letter to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-OH) calling on them to direct the Rules Committee to advance reform measures omitted from Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. Emanuel and Meehan sent a similar request to the members of the Republican leadership last Friday and did not receive a response.
Following is text of the letter:
May 3, 2006
Dear Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Boehner:
In light of today's passage of the Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, we are again writing to strongly recommend that you direct the Rules Committee to advance several critical reform measures supported by both Republicans and Democrats that can be implemented through the House rules process on an expedited basis, meaning we need not wait for legislation to pass both chambers.
Specifically, the rules of the House should be amended to include the following provisions which have the support of the reform community and non-partisan scholars such as Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann:
Requiring an organization sponsoring member or staff travel, prior to the trip, to submit written certification to the Clerk of the House verifying that: the trip was not planned, organized, arranged, or financed by a registered lobbyist, or organized at the request of a registered lobbyist; and that the organization did not accept funds specifically earmarked for the purpose of the trip from any source.
Instituting a ban on gifts, including a provision prohibiting lobbyists from paying for parties for members at National Party Conventions;
Requiring Members of the House to pay the full charter costs of any flight aboard a corporate jet;
Establishing an Office of Public Integrity (OPI) to assist the House Ethics Committee;
Mandating public disclosure of Members who sponsor earmarks in any legislative vehicle or conference report and whether Members have a financial interest in the earmark; prohibiting any Member from offering or withholding an earmark to influence how another Member votes; and requiring that bills or resolutions containing earmarks cannot be voted on until three days after copies have been made available to the full House;
Requiring that the relevant House committees hold hearings and invite General Accountability Office officials to testify on how the Clerk of the House and relevant committees are performing in enforcing lobbying rules.
Sadly, to many Americans, Congress appears to serve the special interests, and not their interests. By immediately adopting these common-sense, bipartisan measures, we can change the culture of the House and begin to restore the public's trust in the integrity of this institution. The Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 falls short of meeting those objectives.
Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to receiving your response.
Martin T. Meehan Rahm Emanuel
Member of Congress Member of Congress