Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Thursday that a proposal to extend the one-year lobbying ban for retired members of Congress to five years — part of President-elect Donald Trump’s series of ethics reforms — is “dangerous.”
The Wisconsin Republican said during a CNN town hall that he agrees with the intent of preventing members of Congress from leaving the institution and immediately going into the private sector just to get rich. However, he noted there are other “unseen circumstances” that come with the lobbying ban.
“What if you want to become an advocate for the cancer society? What if you want, after you retired, to help your local hospital system and be on their board to support them and then go get legislation?” Ryan said.
“There are a lot of other unseen circumstances that can play into this and you’ve got to be careful about that,” the speaker added. “When people leave Congress, what’s wrong with them going out and advocating for causes they believe in?”
The proposal to extend the current one-year lobbying ban for members of Congress to five years is a part of a five-point ethics overhaul plan Trump released during his campaign as part of a pledge to “drain the swap” in Washington.
Ryan suggested the proposal would go beyond that intent.
“I don’t think we should tell men and women we want a citizen legislature, take time out of your private life and come and serve and then go back into private life and you can’t get engaged in civics,” the speaker said. “I think that’s dangerous. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Trump’s ethics platform also included proposals to ban exiting executive branch officials from lobbying for five years, prohibit senior executive officials from ever being able to lobby on behalf of a foreign government, expand the definition of lobbyist to include consultants and advisers and to prevent registered foreign lobbyists from raising money in U.S. elections.
Ryan did not address the other four proposals in Trump’s original plan. Later, Trump added an ethics proposal calling for a constitutional amendment to institute term limits for members of Congress.
“I’ve always supported term limits,” Ryan told the town hall audience, noting “the only way to do that is a constitutional amendment for term limits.”
While dozens of Republicans also support congressional term limits, Democrats have been less inclined to publicly back the idea. A constitutional amendment requires two-thirds support of Congress or ratification from three-fourths of the states, both of which would require Democratic support.