Pelosi's Reform PlanDecember 15, 2006 - by Donny Shaw
Congress Daily got a hold of some materials from a conference call briefing incoming House Democrats on Pelosi’s plan for reform. The plans that were laid out will be voted on as soon as Congress convenes on January 4.
The proposal, which is still in development, would with some exceptions ban gifts, meals and travel for members and staff from lobbyists and the organizations that employ them. Sponsored one-day trips to visit a site, attend a forum, and participate in a panel or to give a speech would be allowed, but the House Ethics Committee would have to develop guidelines aimed at minimizing lobbyist involvement in such matters. The existing outline does not address the role of tax-exempt non-profit 501©3 groups in the process and leadership aides said the question of how best to define limitations on their lobbying activities remains under discussion.
The package requires that tickets to sporting and other events provided by lobbyists be valued at market prices, ostensibly for member and staff reimbursement. The rules package would end the use of official or campaign funds to pay for rides on corporate jets, but the ban would not apply to charter plane services. The package also establishes an outside panel to examine ethics enforcement. Pelosi confirmed today that the bipartisan task force would review the potential for an outside entity to improve ethics enforcement in the House. “There is no question that the ethics process over the last few years has lost the confidence of the American people,” she said at a news conference. She added that the panel, whose members will be appointed by Pelosi and incoming Minority Leader Boehner, will make its recommendations by the end of March.
The rules package requires enactment of pay/go budget rules while making it out of order for the House to consider reconciliation legislation that reduces any federal budget surplus or increases the deficit. Members will be required to fully disclose all earmarks to an unspecified entity and certify that they or their spouses do not financially benefit from it. The package requires that at least one roll call vote be held in conference negotiations with the Senate, that all conferees receive adequate notice on such meetings, and that the text of conference agreements cannot be changed after conferees sign off on it. The package also prohibits holding floor votes open for the sole purpose of affecting the outcome. Members also will have “adequate time” to review legislation before votes, although the briefing materials do not define what an acceptable period would be. Democratic leadership aides said the rules package it is expected to undergo further revisions as outstanding issues are ironed out before being introduced the first day of the session. The summary briefing materials specifically informs lawmakers that members, “will have the opportunity to resolve any issues of concern,” in their briefings.
As far as Pelosi’s plan to make the next Congress more bipartisan, the fact the she consulted with Minority Leader John Boehner on this before briefing her caucus is a sign that she intends to keep good on her promises.