The Senate missed two golden opportunities to reform the lobbying process yesterday. First, they chose not limit earmarks (hat tip to Captain's Quarters in future appropriations bills. Given that earmarks are one of the largest sources of purely wasteful spending that the Congress engages in, this is a big disappointment.
Earmarks are pet spending projects that Senators can attach to almost any bill. Currently, multiple earmarks are bundled together into a bill, then voted on as a package. Earmarks also provide plenty of opportunity for lawmakers to reward lobbyists who donate to a Senator's campaign.
Secondly, the Senate voted down the Coburn / Obama amendment to the lobbying bill. This amendment "directs the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to establish a publicly available database of the more than $300 billion the federal government spends each year via contracts and grants to more than 30,000 groups, businesses and organizations."
Nothing would limit government corruption like creating a giant database that shows exactly who the money goes to. This database would quickly expose any politician that tried to give away taxpayers' money to family, friends, or lobbyists. It's somewhat surprising, then, that Senator Trent Lott felt compelled to raise a "Rule 22 Point of Order" when the amendment was brought up for a vote.
The Senate's Rule 22 refers to the germaneness - i.e. relevance - of a proposed amendment. Translated from the Washington legislatese in which senators and congressmen so often hide, this means Lott thinks making sure the public can see who is getting more than $300 billion of their tax dollars has nothing to do with congressional ethics.
Put another way, Lott just told taxpayers to butt out.
Yes, indeed. Senator Lott doesn't think that knowing where the money goes is relevant to lobbying reform. I wonder why that is Senator? Do you have anything you'd like to hide from the American people? Or do you just believe that being accountable to the voter is an idea who's time has not yet come?
Once again, I'm disappointed in the Senate Republicans. For a party facing a tough election year, they're certainly not doing anything to inspire the voters, excite fiscal conservatives, or even show that they're aware of the election.