Washington, DC — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks today on lobbying reform legislation approaching final passage in the U.S. Senate. Republicans brought a culture of corruption to Washington, rewarding special interests instead of serving the people’s interest. Democrats are fighting for real reform, which is why we offered the Honest Leadership Act, and why lobbying reform is being passed by the Senate today.
Senator Reid’s remarks, as prepared, follow below.
Statement for the Hon. Harry Reid
Senate Democratic Leader
March 29, 2006
Honest Leadership and Open Government Act
Mr. President, I am very proud that we are here today to pass ethics and lobbying reform legislation. This is important legislation, that Americans care strongly about and I am glad that the Senate has been able to take the lead in enacting important reforms.
I want to take a moment to step back from the details of the legislation and remind people why we are here. In the past year, Americans have been shocked and even disgusted by revelations of corruption in our current system by Republican lobbyists, senior Bush Administration officials, Members of Congress, and former congressional staff. While much of the behavior at issue in these scandals is already illegal, the scandals have shown that some outsiders and insiders believed they could act with impunity.
These scandals have shaken public confidence in the Congress and in the entire U.S. Government. Congress needed to act aggressively and swiftly.
I am so proud of my Caucus, Mr. President. When we returned to session earlier this year, the first thing Democrats did was unite behind the Honest Leadership Act. We moved beyond principles and speeches and introduced a strong reform bill with the support of virtually the entire Caucus. Many in our Caucus helped us achieve this effort, and Senator Obama and Senator Feingold led the way. Democrats established the baseline for reform by backing strong legislation and kept pushing until something got done.
I was pleased when the Rules Committee and the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee worked in a bipartisan way and included in their bill much of what was contained in the Democratic legislation. So, I want to express my appreciation to Senator Lott, Senator Dodd, Senator Collins and Senator Lieberman, who have acted in an exemplary way in moving this legislation forward.
So, I am glad we are completing consideration of this legislation today.
Mr. President, I know this bill is not perfect. I and other Democrats would have liked to see an even stronger bill. But, the bill makes a number of important changes to lobbying disclosure rules and Senate ethics rules. And, in many cases, the legislation is exactly what Democrats called for in the Honest Leadership Act.
Among the important provisions in this bill:
– It extends and strengthens rules against the revolving door.
– It ends gifts and meals from lobbyists.
– It has new rules for privately-paid travel, requiring pre-clearance and added disclosure.
– It clarifies that the pay-to-play scheme called the K Street Project is unethical and violates Senate rules.
– It eliminates floor privileges for former Members who become lobbyists.
– It strengthens lobbying disclosure rules.
– It requires new disclosure of “astro-turf” lobbying campaigns and stealth coalitions used by business groups.
– It reforms rules regarding earmarks, scope of conference, and availability of conference reports.
As I said, this bill is not perfect. But, it is a significant improvement over current law, and will help restore the public’s confidence in government. I am proud of the efforts of my colleagues to get this legislation passed today and I urge my colleagues to support it.