Dems Roll Out Their Congressional Reform Package

Ken AshfordCongress1 Comment


Congressional Democrats yesterday laid out a plan to change what they called a GOP "culture of corruption" in Washington, even as Republicans pointed to ethics lapses on their antagonists’ side of the aisle.

Democratic leaders from the House and Senate endorsed proposals that closely mirror Republican plans unveiled this week to tighten regulations on lobbyists since the Jack Abramoff political corruption scandal broke. But in a sign that an ethical "arms race" may be developing, the Democratic plans go further than the Republicans’ proposals.

Rather than limiting the value of a gift to $20, as House Republicans are considering, Democrats would prohibit all gifts from lobbyists. Democrats also take direct aim at some of the legislative practices that have become established in the past 10 years of Republican rule in Congress. They vowed to end the K Street Project, under which Republicans in Congress pressure lobbying organizations to hire only Republican staff members and contribute only to Republican candidates.

Lawmakers would have to publicly disclose negotiations over private-sector jobs, a proposal inspired by then-House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman W.J. "Billy" Tauzin’s job talks in 2003 that led to his hiring as president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America in January 2005. Executive branch officials who are negotiating private-sector jobs would need approval from the independent Office of Governmental Ethics.

Under the Democrats’ plan, House and Senate negotiators working out final versions of legislation would have to meet in open session, with all members of the conference committee — not just Republicans — having the opportunity to vote on amendments. Legislation would have to be posted publicly 24 hours before congressional consideration. Democrats also proposed to crack down on no-bid contracting and to require that any person appointed to a position involving public safety "possess proven credentials."

All good ideas.  Of course, Trent Lott (R-MS), complaining about the Republican plan which limits gift values to $20, had this to say:

“Now we’re going to say you can’t have a meal for more than 20 bucks . . . Where are you going, to McDonald’s?”

Listen, dickhead.  Most Americans pay for their own meal out of their own salaries.  They don’t get "gifts" of any value for that purpose.  And if we can do it, so can you.  Yes, even if it means you have to go to McDonald’s.