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House Passes Lobbying Reforms

The House on its first day of the new session passed changes to ethics guidelines, including banning gifts and meals paid for by lobbyists and limiting travel paid for by outside groups. Guests discuss the legislation's chances of success.

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  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    New York Democrat Louise Slaughter and California Republican David Dreier began the second day of the new Congress the same way they ended the first: arguing over Democrats' handling of a broad ethics reform measure.

    REP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER (D), New York: Certainly, the…

    REP. DAVID DREIER (R), California: Well, if I might reclaim my time, Mr. Speaker. If I might reclaim…

  • REP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER:

    … on ending the war, which is not — the war itself is not…

  • REP. DAVID DREIER:

    Mr. Speaker, if I might reclaim my time. Thank you for letting me reclaim my time.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The two are well-known for their contentious debates. But with Democrats now in control, Slaughter has the upper hand, having replaced Dreier as chairman of the House Rules Committee.

    And for a second day, Dreier criticized Slaughter for allowing the new majority to bring up the ethics bill with no input from Republicans.

  • REP. DAVID DREIER:

    All I'm asking — all I'm asking is that the promise that was made in the 109th Congress, by the then-members of minority, about what they believe minority rights should be, should be, in fact, implemented.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Slaughter disputed Dreier's account and said Democrats will not run the committee as Republicans had.

  • REP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER:

    We have no intention of keeping our foot on your necks the way you did us.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    With that, Democrats went ahead and pushed through elements of their reform package, some with overwhelming support and some with a more partisan split.

    One pay-as-you-go proposal would allow new discretionary government spending only if it's accompanied by a way to pay for it. California Democrat Adam Schiff said PAYGO rules would help end the Republican era of reckless deficit spending.

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), California: The first rule of PAYGO is, when you're in a hole, as we are, when you're in a budgetary hole, stop digging. If we want new spending, we need to find a way to pay for it.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    But some Republicans argued that PAYGO would only lead to higher taxes. California's John Campbell.

    REP. JOHN CAMPBELL (R), California: PAYGO does not equal fiscal responsibility. What PAYGO does equal is tax increases that will hurt the economy, and will not raise revenue, and will not help the deficit.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    In the end, nearly 50 Republicans joined Democrats in passing the PAYGO rule. And there was even more Republican support for a bill requiring lawmakers to disclose publicly pet spending projects, known as earmarks.

    Several members cited as one reason for support the 2005 conviction of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, for channeling earmarks to defense contractors in exchange for bribes. Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan.

    REP. PAUL RYAN (R), Wisconsin: I think it's high time that, when a member of Congress requests an earmark, that that member's name be associated with that earmark, that that member's justification be associated with the earmark, and that we, as members of this body, have the opportunity to vote on whether or not that that earmark should be funded or not.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    In some respects, the earmark reform package is a companion to a list of lobbying reforms the House approved as their first measure of business yesterday.

    They ban members from accepting gifts and meals from lobbyists, require approval of members' travel paid by outside groups, and prohibit members from using corporate jets. Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett.

    REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D), Texas: Now, normally, a New Year's resolution is something you make up and write up for yourself. But this ethics resolution that Democrats are now adopting was written by the American people at the ballot box in November.

    This January resolution is possible only because of the November revolution by voters who were, quite frankly, revolted by what they saw going on here in Washington. Under Democratic leadership, spring cleaning is getting an early start here in January.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Even David Dreier agreed with the new restrictions and, in fact, took credit for some of them.

  • REP. DAVID DREIER:

    I'm reminded of the fact that, one year ago this month, Speaker Hastert and I stood right upstairs in the press gallery and unveiled a package for lobbying and ethics reform, which did a number of things that I am happy to see are incorporated in this provision that is coming forward from the new majority.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    These lobbying reforms are not just the priority of the House: Senate Democrats will bring their package of reforms up for a vote next week.

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