Aug 02 2007
WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Coburn said Wednesday that Senate leaders pushing an ethics reform package are trying to "foist a farce on the American people.”
Coburn, R-Muskogee, and Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, blasted the compromise package. They said the rules aimed at making lawmakers' pet projects more transparent and more subject to challenges can easily be waived.
Coburn said the new rule requiring senators to disclose when a lobbyist had raised $15,000 or more for them in a six-month period means a lobbyist can still secretly raise $14,900 for a lawmaker's campaign.
At a news conference, DeMint said the bill, which passed the House on Tuesday and may be voted upon in the Senate today, is "worse than doing nothing.” He said it would allow congressional leaders to say they had enacted reforms and take the issue off the agenda.
What the bill would do
•Require members to disclose they had requested a project and certify it would not benefit them directly.
•Require that projects inserted into the final versions of bills without having cleared the House or Senate before be disclosed at least 48 hours before a vote.
•Allow lawmakers to challenge those new projects and have them removed; currently the conference committee reports, the final versions of spending bills, can't be amended on the floor.
•Coburn aggressively has been attacking earmarks — typically, projects inserted into spending bills by lawmakers to benefit their districts — since coming to the Senate in 2005.
•He has offered amendments to remove specific projects, such as museums and the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska, but his efforts usually fail.
•Some recent scandals in Congress have been linked to earmarks, including the current federal investigation of Sen. Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican known for steering federal projects to his state.