This bill is not just bad, but fundamentally dishonest. As a party, we must put up a united front in the face of Republican deception and corruption. We know that this bill is nothing but a joke, intended to trick the voting public into thinking the Republicans are serious about reform. I have urged all my Democratic colleagues to vote against this bill.
Here is the text of the speech I am going to give on the House floor this afternoon. The debate right now is scheduled to start around 1 pm EST.
Watch us on CSPAN this afternoon and see how the Republicans attempt once again to make a mockery of representative Democracy by passing bill that will do nothing to stop this Congress being sold out to powerful special interests oil, drug, and insurance companies.
Esteemed Houston Chronicle columnist Craig Hines recently wrote that I and my Democratic colleagues were right to assail this lobby reform bill last week...
...but he didn't let us entirely off the hook. There was one thing we didn't do, Mr. Hines said: we should have been tougher.
He's right. There's no need to mince any words here. The issue at hand is just too important to allow for pleasantries.
This bill is a sham. And by promoting it as a real reform measure, Republicans are lying to the American people.
Consider what Mr. Hines said about it: "The bill," he wrote, "is designed to get the ruling Republicans past the November election. Period."
He said that with this bill, Republicans are hoping to, quote, "keep control of the House with a minimum of change in the way the majority party has come to do business."
And he isn't alone.
Every major editorial board in the country has roundly denounced this legislation.
Today's Washington Post calls it "diluted snake oil," and says that it, quote, "is an insult to voters who the GOP apparently believes are dumb enough to be snookered by this feint."
Last week's Roll Call said that the bill, quote, "makes a mockery of its own title."
And the New York Times, calling it the "lobbyist empowerment act," noted that Republicans have buried, quote, "all attempts at instituting credible ethics enforcement in the House."
My friends on both sides of the aisle: your constituents are watching. And if you vote for this bill, you are telling them that you are not serious about ethics reform.
You are saying that you accept a leadership that promotes dishonest legislation...
...and one that brazenly lies about what its bills will do.
Despite Republican proclamations to the contrary, the scope of what this bill doesn't do is nothing short of stunning.
In January, the Speaker of the House, Rep. Hastert, called for an end to privately funded travel. But this bill doesn't end it. It merely bans it until December, one month after the election, when the Ethics committee is supposed to weigh in on the matter.
Of course, Republicans have shut down the Ethics Committee for a year and a half. I doubt it will rule on anything significant any time soon.
Back in January, my colleague on the Rules Committee, Rep. Dreier, said that we should institute a much stronger gift ban. This bill won't do that.
Last week in the Rules Committee, Republicans voted down twenty more common-sense Democratic Amendments, out of twenty-one submitted - that's 95 percent.
They rejected an amendment that would prohibit securities trading by Members and their staff based on non-public information.
They vetoed a requirement that top officials report contacts they have with private parties seeking to influence official government action.
They turned down a ban on gifts from lobbyists, and an end to the inherently anti-democratic K Street Project.
M. Speaker, these endless omissions would be bad enough on their own.
But the real reason why this legislation is such a disappointment...
...the real reason why it is such a missed opportunity to create the reform Americans are demanding...
...is that it does nothing to fix the battered and broken political process of this Congress.
The rules of the House, and the procedures enshrined within it during our first two centuries as a nation...
...they were conscientiously designed to be a vaccine against corruption in this body.
By maintaining an open and transparent legislative process...
...by allowing bills to be debated and amended...
...by permitting Members of Congress to actually read and reflect upon legislation before they cast their votes on it...
...through these means, Congress was supposed to be freed from the temptations of corruption that our Founding Fathers knew lurked in the shadows.
But during the last eleven years of Republican leadership, those shadows have spread. And today, it's hard to see the light anymore.
The results have been as outrageous as they have been predictable. Corruption has become commonplace.
Members no longer need to fear public scrutiny of their actions, because they work in secret, as do the lobbyists who court them and whom they court in return.
Nor do they need to forge agreements with others to get provisions through the House - they can just slip them into large bills without telling anyone.
The system is broken. And as long as it is broken, it will remain corrupt.
This bill was supposed to change such an abysmal reality. But it won't change a thing.
If we pass this legislation as it is written, secret, last minute perks and protections for big business will still be routinely added to conference reports.
The Rules Committee will still deny anyone not in the Majority the right to amend legislation.
Major, thousand-page bills will still be dropped on the desks of Members only minutes before they have to vote on them.
And when the time for these votes has come, arm-twisting and influence peddling right on the very floor of this House will continue unabated...
...and it will go on, ten minutes, twenty minutes, an hour, even three hours after votes have officially ended - whatever it takes to jam the agenda of the Majority through the gears of our deteriorating democracy.
None of these un-American and shameful practices are even addressed by this bill, let alone prohibited.
And then, as far as the Majority is concerned, that will be that. The public cried out for reform after they realized the degree to which their trust and good will were being abused. Republicans promised change.
But they have gone back on their word.
This is the very opposite of a reform bill. It is instead a steadfast and cynical defense of an indefensible status-quo.
M. Speaker, let me again address my friends on both sides of the isle.
Some of you may be afraid that a vote against this bill will be portrayed by your opponents back home as a vote against reform.
But it doesn't have to be this way. You have a choice here today.
Democrats are offering a substitute in the form of a motion to recommit. It will do everything this Republican bill does not, and will deliver everything the American people expect from lobbying reform.
It will ban travel on corporate jets, as well as gifts and meals from lobbyists.
It will shut down the K Street Project...
It will end the practice of adding special interest provisions to conference reports in the dead of night.
It will increase transparency for all earmarks, toughen lobbyist disclosure requirements, and set up a structure for real enforcement of lobbyist compliance.
Today is a moment of truth for this Congress. You can vote for the Republican bill before us, and tell an entire nation that you don't really care about what it needs....
...or you can vote yes on the motion to recommit, and pass the Democratic substitute.
I urge my colleagues in the strongest possible terms to do what is right for this Congress, and for this nation.