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The Latest on Lobbying Reform Legislation

The Senate debate on lobbying reform seemed to be moving forward yesterday in an unusually bipartisan way — until it screeched to a halt after running into the Dubai port security issue. There will be a vote at 2pm today that may move the debate back to the lobby reform bill.

In the midst of the lobbying reform debate yesterday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered an unrelated amendment on the port issue. Because the port issue isn’t relevant to the reform measure, and Schumer refused to withdraw his amendment, debate on the reform bill and numerous pending amendments ended for the day.

By voice vote yesterday, the Senate expanded the underlying bill’s ban on gifts from lobbyists to Members and staff to include a ban on meals as well. The amendment co-sponsors were Sens. Christopher Dodd, Rick Santorum, John McCain, Joseph Lieberman and Barack Obama.

Yesterday’s only recorded vote was on an amendment by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, that would have strengthened the underlying bill in many ways, including banning all gifts and meals from lobbyists and restricting the role of lobbyists in organizing, paying and participating in official trips for Members of Congress. The Reid amendment – which lost by a vote of 44 to 55 – reflected the provisions in a Democratic bill co-sponsored by 40 Senators earlier this year.

Today, more than 35 amendments are pending, including provisions to create an independent ethics enforcement office (the Office of Public Integrity – which was in the original Homeland Security bill proposed by Sens. Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman but was taken out by the Committee), to ban former members and high-level staff from not only directly lobbying members but also from directing others on lobby strategy and to restrict campaign fundraising activities of lobbyists.