Despite public and private assurances by Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Trent Lott (R-Miss.), the Senate may not be able to wrap up work on the lobbying reform legislation it is preparing to take up today.
Initially, Lott had said that if Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) drops his amendment related to the Dubai ports deal, he would be able to finish consideration of the stalled bill within a day.
But several key issues remain unresolved, and they could hold up final approval, Senate aides said Friday.
A Senate GOP aide familiar with talks on the bill said late last week that while Lott had “told colleagues that he can get it done in one day,” a deal had still not been worked out on changes to the use of anonymous holds to block legislation and nominations, as well as new travel rules.
Schumer’s office did not return a call for comment.
Despite commitments from GOP and Democratic leadership in both chambers to quickly move lobbying reform legislation this year, bills in both houses have become bogged down amid legislative maneuvering and waning public scrutiny of Congress.
Watchdog groups have said that a proposal to create an Office of Public Integrity to regulate Senators’ dealings with lobbyists is a central one for advocates of serious lobbying reform. Craig Holman, a lobbyist with the activist group Public Citizen, said that if the provision is defeated, he will consider pulling support for the bill altogether.
“If we don’t get it in the Senate, we definitely won’t get it in the House,” Holman said. “At that point, I want to encourage the reform community whether to reconsider our approach to the whole process.”
The House version of lobbying reform does not include any independent ethics oversight mechanism, and watchdog groups have panned that chamber’s legislation as a watered-down version of its Senate counterpart.
In the House, the lobbying bill has been referred to five committees: Rules, House Administration, Government Reform, Standards of Official Conduct and Judiciary. Judiciary and Rules aides said last week that no action was expected this week on the bills. The other committees are also considered unlikely to move quickly.
A lack of movement on the bills has not, however, stopped either party from continuing to use the issue as a political tool.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), prior to the St. Patrick’s Day Recess, called GOP lobbying reform plans “vague and insufficient.”
House Republicans are expected to take Democrats to task for opposing reforms to 527 pressure groups that the GOP has sought.