By Dan Carden
A lifetime ban on lawmakers becoming lobbyists and a balanced budget amendment are among the reforms U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., vows to pursue if Hoosiers elect him to the U.S. Senate.
The two-term Evansville congressman announced his Plan to Change the Way Washington Works at an Indianapolis event Tuesday. Ellsworth's 10-point plan focuses on increasing government transparency, reducing government spending and fixing procedural issues that slow the legislative process.
"Too many times, the people in Washington, D.C., from both parties, put other peoples' interests--special interests--in front of their own and in front of the people back home," Ellsworth said. "There are ways that we can restore the public's confidence in their elected officials, and that's what we have to start doing."
One of Ellsworth's proposals would prohibit U.S. senators from working as a lobbyist after leaving office. Current senators must wait two years before they can lobby their former colleagues.
"So many times that's what people intend to do, as opposed to public service, and why people go to Washington, or any elected official, they use that to trampoline or to bounce in to a more lucrative job," Ellsworth said.
Former U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, Ellsworth's Republican opponent, worked as a lobbyist after leaving the Senate in 1999 and again after serving four years as U.S. ambassador to Germany. Ellsworth told reporters Tuesday that he would never work as a lobbyist.
Other Ellsworth reform proposals were big on ideas but short on specifics.
For example, Ellsworth said he would support a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget but would not identify specific programs or services he'd cut right now to eliminate the estimated $1.35 trillion shortfall for 2010. He said the amendment would allow government spending to exceed revenue during "emergencies," which he did not define.
Ellsworth also wants to reduce the number of senators required to end a filibuster from 60 to 55. However, changing that rule requires getting 60 votes to end debate on the rule. Neither political party currently controls that many seats in the Senate, nor is likely to after the fall elections.