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Senate passes lobbying, ethics reform

Fri., Aug. 3, 2007

WASHINGTON – Acknowledging the public’s outrage over corruption scandals, the Senate gave final congressional approval Thursday to sweeping new limits and disclosure requirements on lobbying and pet-project spending.

The 83-14 vote came over the objections of Republicans who said the travel restrictions would be problematic and that proposed “earmark” spending revisions had been watered down to the point of being a sham.

The House of Representatives approved the measure 411-8 on Tuesday. With veto-proof levels of support from both chambers, it goes to President Bush for his signature.

Democrats said it fulfilled a promise they’d made to voters upon regaining the majority this year.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the measure looked weaker than expected.

Republicans said they’d demand additional legislation to tighten spending provisions when Congress returned in September from a monthlong recess. “In some key areas this bill is an improvement over the status quo, but this isn’t the bill I would have written,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who voted for it.

The measure bans lawmakers from accepting gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists. It requires lobbyists to file disclosure forms twice as often as before, to a publicly accessible database. It eliminates congressional pensions for lawmakers convicted of corruption-related crimes.

It also promises to curb abuses by lawmakers who tuck money for pet projects – known as “earmarks” – into huge spending, tax or authorization bills. Such earmarks, which sometimes reward lobbyists or lawmakers’ relatives, have proliferated in recent years.

The legislation says lawmakers generally must publicize their earmarks 48 hours before votes and that earmarks can’t directly benefit lawmakers’ financial interests.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a critic of earmark abuses, was among 14 Republicans who voted against the measure. He charged that the revisions had so many loopholes that they were unlikely to stop lawmakers from slipping favors for donors into law.


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