Democrats Should Not Let Senate Republicans Block Ethics Reform; McConnell Refuses to Allow Reform Bills to Proceed to Conference

June 29, 2007

Democrats Should Not Let Senate Republicans Block Ethics Reform; McConnell Refuses to Allow Reform Bills to Proceed to Conference

Statement of Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is again obstructing passage of the landmark lobbying and ethics reform package (S. 1), and Democrats shouldn’t stand for it. McConnell has refused to allow the appointment of Senate conferees to negotiate the differences between the Senate and House reform bills, a necessary step for passage of the final legislation. But this isn’t just any legislation – these bills make key ethics and lobbying reform improvements, which voters clearly told Congress last November they desired. It is unconscionable that McConnell, a longtime foe of any type of ethics reform, should stand in the way of voters’ wishes.

In January, McConnell attempted to kill the lobbying and ethics reform bill when he rallied his Republican colleagues to prevent a floor vote on the legislation. A vote to place a time limit on consideration of S. 1, known as a cloture vote, backfired as the Republican caucus was viewed by the public as voting against ethics. McConnell and the Republicans quickly backpedaled on their obstructionist effort and let the bill pass in the Senate by a vote of 96-2.

The House recently approved its own version of the lobbying and ethics reform legislation (H.R. 2316), which must be reconciled with the Senate bill in conference before becoming law. McConnell claims to be representing another unnamed Senate Republican by now preventing the appointment of conferees. McConnell has demanded that, before the ethics reform legislation can proceed, he receive leave to offer a mystery amendment to an unrelated piece of legislation requiring electronic reporting of campaign finance reports (S. 223).

This is nothing but partisan obstructionism – obstructionism against the ethics reform bill and against full disclosure of Senate campaign finance records. McConnell is not offering anything useful. McConnell and his colleagues merely want to stop reform.

Public Citizen strongly urges Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) not to surrender to McConnell’s partisan tricks. McConnell has no leg to stand on. If the Senate Republicans continue to block the conference process, the Democratic leadership should force them to go on public record in a cloture vote – and watch how quickly they will turn tail once again.

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