For example, they said committee chairmen will be primarily responsible for deciding whether provisions in their bills amount to earmarks because if that duty was left to the Senate Parliamentarian alone, it could stall work on spending bills for months. They said the Majority Leader will step in to perform the function only in the event a chairman is unavailable.
They said lists of earmarks will, in fact, be available online and searchable 48 hours before votes on the underlying measures.
And they defended the wording of a provision meant to bar Senators from sponsoring earmarks to benefit their families as consistent with existing Senate rules. Conservatives said Senators could sidestep the prohibition, because as written, it only bans lawmakers from promoting earmarks providing a direct “pecuniary” benefit to themselves, which they argue would apply only to earmarks going directly into a Senator’s bank account. But a Senate Democratic aide said the construction is consistent with similar conflict-of-interest standards already in Senate rules.
Democratic aides said under the bill, every measure that comes to the floor will include a list of targeted spending and tax provisions in it. Lawmakers can use the list to challenge individual earmarks, forcing a vote. The earmark sponsor would have to round up 60 votes to defend the provision. An earmark added in a conference report could subject the entire package to a challenge.
Senate and House Democratic leadership aides, who worked through the weekend to finish drafting the measure, struck a compromise to preserve a bundling disclosure requirement that had generated static on both sides of the aisle.
Under the bill, campaign committees, not lobbyists, would have to keep track of the work lobbyists do to round up checks for them. They would have to file quarterly reports with the Federal Election Commission, detailing any lobbyist fundraisers who gather more than $15,000 for them over a six-month period.
The bill preserves the two chambers’ different approaches to revolving-door restrictions. While the House leaves unchanged its one-year cooling-off period for former lawmakers and staffers who take lobbying jobs, Senators would face a doubled two-year period banning them from direct lobbying.
The measure drops a proposal from Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) that would have expanded the definition of prohibited activities from direct lobbying to backroom strategizing as well.