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Abuse of Power Lobbying Reform

Location: Washington, DC

ABUSES OF POWER LOBBYING REFORM -- (House of Representatives - May 11, 2005)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, absolute power corrupts, and over the last decade, the cozy relationships that have been created between House Republicans and powerful corporate lobbyists have led to lobbyists controlling what happens here on the House floor.

Earlier this year, the Republican majority rammed through weaker ethics rules to protect one of their leaders who has come under scrutiny because of his relationship with a lobbyist. Fortunately, the American people were not fooled by this stunt. They saw the new rules for what they were, nothing more than an attempt to protect a powerful Republican leader. Finally, after media and public outcry became too much for the Republican majority to endure, Republicans agreed to reinstate the old bipartisan ethics rules.

However, Mr. Speaker, it is important to remember that had the public been indifferent and had the Democrats on the Ethics Committee gone ahead and allowed the committee to organize under the weakened rules, today this House would be structured under ethics rules that would allow either side, Democrat or Republican, to shield its Members from scrutiny. Mr. Speaker, the Republican ethics reversal was good for this institution and good for the American public.

I wanted to say, though, Mr. Speaker, that lobbyists still have too much power within the Republican majority here on Capitol Hill. House Republicans turned to lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry to write a prescription drug law that does nothing to help senior citizens with the skyrocketing prices of their prescriptions drugs. Republicans turned to lobbyists from the oil and gas industry to write an energy bill that does nothing to address the rising costs Americans pay at the pump. With each of these bills rewarding lobbyists with billions of dollars in tax breaks and government handouts, Republicans did absolutely nothing to help out middle-class Americans who continue to struggle to make ends meet.

I think it is time Congress rein in the power of Washington lobbyists. Last week the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Meehan) and the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Emanuel) introduced legislation that would dramatically reform the way lobbyists do business in this town. The reform legislation would force lobbyists to publicly disclose who they meet, whether it is a Member of Congress or an administration official, and what issue they are lobbying about. If the news reports of the last 4 months have shown anything, it is that lobbyists work below the radar screen here in Washington, and it is time for that to change and this reform legislation to get a good start.

The gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Meehan) and the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Emanuel) want to bring a Republican on board to make their reform legislation bipartisan, but so far they have no takers. In fact, when the gentleman from Texas (Mr. DeLay), the majority leader, was asked about the reform legislation last week, his first response was to simply laugh. And then the gentleman from Texas (Mr. DeLay) responded, and I am quoting, "I am not interested in the water that they are carrying for some of these leftist groups."

Now, I would maintain that lobbying reform should not be a partisan issue. The majority leader should not stand in the way of any Republican who decides to sign on to the Meehan-Emanuel bill.

And could it be that the Republican leadership has become so cozy with Washington lobbyists that they do not want to see any lobbyist reform?

Mr. Speaker, 10 years ago the gentleman from Texas (Mr. DeLay) said right here on the House floor, and I am quoting, "The time has come that the American people know exactly what their representatives are doing here in Washington ..... are they feeding at the public trough, taking lobbyist paid vacations, getting wined and dined by special interests? Or are they working hard to represent their constituents? The people, the American people have a right to know."

Now, that is what the gentleman from Texas (Mr. DeLay) said, as I said, 10 years ago. But, Mr. Speaker, what has happened to the majority leader over the last 10 years that makes him sing a different tune today?

I think it is time this House support real lobbying reform, and it is time House Republicans seriously look at the ideas that the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Meehan) and the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Emanuel) have put forward in their legislation.

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