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Lobbyists Follow Members on the Road

Lawmakers returning home for their spring recess won’t be able to escape the burning issues on Capitol Hill. That’s because many Washington, D.C., interest groups will continue their lobbying fights on financial reform, gays in the military and the new health care law back in Members’ districts.

Gay rights groups will be taking their campaign to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on the road, holding 26 events in states represented by key Senators.

The monthlong tour kicks off today in Lincoln, Neb., the home state of Sen. Ben Nelson (D), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has remained noncommittal on whether he will support a repeal.

Sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers United, the events will also hit the states of other undeclared Democrats on the panel, including Sens. Evan Bayh (Ind.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jim Webb (Va.) and Robert Byrd (W.Va.).

“The small minority that supports keeping this law on the books has been very vocal, so we need to get the overwhelming majority that support repeal to start standing up in their local communities, speaking out and demonstrating that this is going to be a safe vote to take,” said J. Alexander Nicholson, the executive director of Servicemembers United. He added that the lobbyists will be using the break “to squeeze in as many meetings as possible with Congressional staffers here in D.C. in order to get them briefed on the nuances of the latest developments regarding the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ issue.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which led the business effort against the Democratic health care law, will be using the break to reinforce its opposition to the financial reform legislation that will be considered by the Senate when lawmakers return in April.

The chamber has launched a media campaign that includes national television, radio and online ads criticizing the current legislation while supporting alternative measures.

“We’re taking our call for bipartisan, balanced legislation to the states during the Congressional recess, underscoring with the American people that we need financial reform that protects consumers without stifling job growth,” said David Hirschmann, president of the chamber’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness.

The chamber specifically opposes the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which it argues will create another burdensome bureaucracy. The House bill would create a consumer protection agency as an independent entity, while the Senate version would put the agency within the Federal Reserve.

The chamber, however, is lobbying for a less powerful Consumer Protection Council to ensure coordination of regulatory and enforcement actions among federal regulators.

The major unions, which devoted a considerable amount of time to pushing health care reform across the finish line, are also now focusing on other issues, including jobs and financial reform.

The AFL-CIO will be holding 200 events around the country that will target six Wall Street banks that it argues helped trigger the financial collapse. The union is hoping to mobilize grass-roots support for the current financial reform legislation and pressure banks and business groups to drop their opposition to the measure.

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