CONGRESSIONAL Republicans are suddenly taking a strong interest in lobbying reform. Speaker Dennis Hastert and the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, are rallying behind a reform package that will include measures like increasing disclosure and doubling the length of time after leaving Congress before lawmakers and staff can lobby their colleagues. These are commendable and desirable reforms. But to get to the root of what ails Washington’s political culture, a more basic change is necessary.
In 1987, when the majority Democrats once – and only once – stretched a budget vote to 30 minutes because they found themselves unexpectedly down by one vote when time was supposed to expire, the minority Republicans loudly protested, with their whip, Dick Cheney, saying it was the worst abuse of power he had ever seen in Congress. Now it is routine to bring up a bill and troll for enough votes to pass it, even when a clear majority of the House – 218 members – has voted nay.
Great bipartisan discussion of Washington’s political culture and what the real problems are. What is needed is not only more transparency and an independent investigatory group in the legislative branch. Why? Because no one can be trusted to police themselves. Another solution is public financing of elections.