“We are blowing away the fog of anonymity,” said Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Rules Committee. “The goal is to pull back the curtain on earmarks to the public.”
The rule change shelves a wider ethics bill, however, at least until next year. That bill became bogged down amid disagreements between the House and the Senate, and the reluctance of lawmakers from both parties to limit their interactions with lobbyists. The earmarks measure was brought up as a passable way to address voter unrest over the scandals, aides said.
“This bill represents the death of lobby reform,” said Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), a former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
The Senate is working on its own change in earmarks rules, which its leaders also hope to approve in lieu of broad ethics legislation this year, top staffers said. The staffers added that subjecting earmarks to more sunshine will allow lawmakers to tell their constituents that they addressed their ethics concerns even though the broad overhaul bill failed.
The larger ethics effort began with fanfare in January, prompted by a series of congressional scandals that started with the guilty plea of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff on fraud and conspiracy charges.
The ethics bill faltered, however, after being gradually diluted, at least compared with the initial promises made by congressional leaders. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), for example, advanced a plan that would have prohibited lawmakers from accepting privately funded travel. But lawmakers rejected that provision along with many others that would have restricted lobbyists or would have done more than improve disclosure about lobbyists’ encounters with Congress.
The House and the Senate did endorse separate lobbying-overhaul bills this spring, but efforts to reconcile them stalled over a disagreement about a House-passed provision that would restrict independent campaign organizations called 527s. Senate Democrats and a handful of Republicans refused to accept the provision, but the House insisted that it be included in the final bill.
Lawmakers from both parties and both chambers also lost their enthusiasm for the bill as lobbying groups pressured them to water down the legislation and voters remained silent about its diminishing prospects.
I’d bet a poll on whether or not lobbying should be illegal would show most Americans feel it should.
Here’s how the vote went down. I’d bet the number of Democrats voting nay relates to their dislike of the idea that Reps will be able to use this as as political propeganda this November.
One side is centered on retreating from Iraq, the other is centered on advancing on Terror. Personally I think Iraq will work itself out and terror will continue to be a central issue. What about entitlement reform, healthcare, and government largess? I sense the next two years will be a complete waste of time, at the tax payers expense.