January 5, 2007
-- by Dave Johnson
The new Democrat-led House of Representatives on Friday passed a second batch of ethics reforms in as many days and resurrected controls they said would help end deficit spending.But wait, there's more!
One day after taking over the House after Republicans' 12-year rule, Democrats won rules changes they claimed would restore civility to the badly tarnished chamber and curb "earmarks" — special-interest money and tax breaks often secretly inserted into legislation.
The move won applause from some of the most conservative House Republicans, including Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who said Democrats "had more guts than we did to tackle earmark reform in a meaningful way. I compliment them for that."
Earmarks have ranged from tax breaks for handfuls of individuals to big-ticket military contracts and lawmakers' hometown projects.
Democrats also pushed through rules changes to tighten up the way floor votes are conducted. The goal was to stop a past Republican practice of holding "15-minute votes" open, sometimes for hours, so they could change the outcome.
The House action followed nearly unanimous approval on Thursday of related ethics reforms putting more distance between lobbyists and lawmakers. That measure bans lobbyists' gifts, restricts privately funded junkets and bans members' use of corporate jets.
... Turning to economic matters, House Democrats won a rules change aimed at controlling federal budget deficits, which have been chronic during President George W. Bush's presidency.
The "pay as you go" rule, in effect for most of the 1990s and until it expired in 2002, would stop new tax cuts or new spending on "entitlement" programs unless those policy changes were paid for through tax hikes or other spending cuts.
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