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US Senate To First Take Up Ethics, Lobbying Overhaul January 5, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–U.S. Senate Democrats, on the heels of their House colleagues, are addressing the ethical lapses of lawmakers and the ties with lobbyists that helped bring the downfall of Republicans in the November elections.

The Senate will take up ethics and lobbying overhaul Monday as its first legislative act under the Democratic-controlled Congress and expects to spend up to two weeks debating amendments, Democrats said Friday.

The House, under new leader Nancy Pelosi, also devoted its first two days to changing House rules to bar members from accepting gifts and travel from lobbyists, prohibit the use of corporate jets and require greater disclosure of special projects, or earmarks, tucked into larger bills.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his opening address to the Senate on Thursday, said the scandals involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the criminal cases against several lawmakers “shocked the very core of this nation.”

Americans, he said, “deserve better. That is why as our first order of business we will seek to give Americans the open and accountable government they deserve.”

The bill to be introduced on the Senate floor Monday, co-sponsored by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders, is identical to legislation that the Senate passed last March by a 90-8 margin.

That bill died because of differences with the Republican-led House, which insisted on a provision to limit contributions to independent political groups known as 527s for the tax code that covers them that in the past have tended to favor Democrats.

The Senate bill to be taken up Monday doesn’t touch on campaign or election changes, which Democratic aides said would come up separately after going through committee hearings.

Unlike the House rules changes this week, which don’t need Senate approval, the Senate bill changes lobbying law and thus will require House action. The House is expected to take up similar legislation in February.

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