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US Senate Passes Ethics Reform Legislation January 19, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–The U.S. Senate, responding to voter frustration with corruption and special interest influence in Washington, overwhelmingly approved far-reaching ethics and lobbying reform legislation.

Under the bill, passed 96-2 Thursday, senators will give up gifts and free travel from lobbyists, pay more for travel on corporate jets and make themselves more accountable for the pet projects they insert into bills.

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who made the bill his first initiative as head of the Senate, called it the “most significant legislation in ethics and lobbying reform we’ve had in the history of this country.”

The Senate did reject the idea of setting up an independent office to investigate members’ ethical breaches. But it said spouses of sitting members will no longer be able to lobby the Senate and lobbyists can no longer pay for lavish parties for members at national conventions.

Passage of the bill came a day after the measure appeared dead, the victim of a test of will between the two parties.

Republicans were angry they could not get a vote on a proposal giving the president, with congressional approval, more power to kill single spending items in larger bills. So Republican senators voted against a resolution needed to move the bill to final passage.

On Thursday morning, both sides accused the other of killing the bill and betraying the trust of voters who had demanded that Congress clean up its act.

Under the agreement reached Thursday, the proposal can be offered as part of the next bill to reach the Senate floor, a proposal to raise the minimum wage while giving small businesses several tax breaks. That will take place on Monday.

The ethics and lobbying legislation would:

-Bar lawmakers from accepting gifts and travel paid for by lobbyists.
-Extend from one to two years the time a former member must wait before he can engage in lobbying activities.
-Deny pensions to lawmakers convicted of serious crimes.
-Require more reporting by lobbyists on their activities.
-Require public disclosure of home-state projects.
-Require senators hitching rides on private jets to pay full charter rates rather than the current practice of paying the far cheaper equivalent of a first class ticket.
-Require reporting by lobbyists who obtain small donations from clients and then “bundle” them into larger contributions to politicians.
-Prevent spouses of sitting members from lobbying.

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