House should consider rules reform package

Friday, January 20, 2006

Citizens must have confidence in the honesty, integrity, and legitimacy of their government in order to sustain a healthy and functioning democracy. That confidence should extend not only to elected officials, but also to official staff and others who work for or conduct business with the government, including lobbyists.

Because of a recent series of events which have tarnished the reputation of the U.S. House of Representatives, a list of 14 reforms has been proposed to help protect the integrity of Congress, restore checks and balances to the legislative process, and make it harder for lobbyists to exert improper influence on legislation. I was pleased to cosponsor this legislation, which was introduced last December by Congressmen Dave Obey (D-WI), Barney Frank (D-MA), David Price (D-NC), and Tom Allen (D-ME). The package is designed to weaken lobbyist influence, strengthen fiscal discipline, curb abuses of power, outlaw the use of earmarks to buy votes for questionable legislation, create more time for serious Congressional oversight, and prevent last minute legislative items from being slipped into conference reports between the House and the Senate without a full public vote by the conference committee. The reforms would put Congressional travel off limits to lobbyists, eliminate extended roll calls and misuse of the rules process, end the 2 day Congressional work week, and prohibit legislation from being voted on without Members having time to familiarize themselves with it. When Congress convenes for the Second Session of the 109th Congress later this month, the House of Representatives is expected to consider rules reform legislation. In addition to Democratic proposals, the Speaker of the House has appointed a Republican task force to develop its own proposal. I am hopeful that these proposed reforms will receive serious and thoughtful consideration and that Congress will agree to changes to begin to repair the damage that has been done by individuals who care more about personal gain than for what is in the best interest of our country and their fellow citizens.