March 6, 2006 - Issue: Vol. 152, No. 27 — Daily Edition109th Congress (2005 - 2006) - 2nd Session
LEGISLATIVE TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT; Congressional Record Vol. 152, No. 27
(Senate - March 06, 2006)
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[Pages S1759-S1760] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] LEGISLATIVE TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, today the Senate is taking another step forward to make our Government more transparent and more accountable. It will be a very important debate on very substantive issues, issues that affect the operation of this body and our relationships to outside groups. We will begin debate on the comprehensive lobbying and ethics reform legislation. Over the last few months, we have made steady progress. The Senate was first to develop a plan. It was the first to establish a working group to examine the issue. It was the first to hold committee hearings and to have a markup--two markups. And today we will be the first to [[Page S1760]] bring a comprehensive lobbying reform package to the floor. I wish to in particular thank our colleague from Pennsylvania, Senator Santorum, for his willingness to lead a lobbying reform working group. He has hosted numerous meetings over the last several weeks and spent countless hours on this issue. We are where we are today in large part because of his commitment and his leadership. I wish to recognize him for that. I also appreciate the work of the chairman and chairwoman of our Rules Committee and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Chairman Lott and Chairman Collins. They have worked expeditiously, both in discussions and holding hearings and markups, so we could in response to my request have available for floor consideration today legislation that centers on commonsense reform. There will be a lot of debate and there will be a lot of discussion, but I think the issues have been laid out and laid out well. Those two chairmen will be comanaging the bill from our side of the aisle, since each of those committees brought forth that legislation from their respective committees. So that everyone understands how we expect to proceed, we will begin debate on S. 2349, the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act. The first amendment offered will be a substitute, incorporating the joint text of both the bills reported by the Rules Committee and by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. I have asked the two managers to move forward in as efficient a way as we possibly can in order to achieve that goal of completing this legislation this week. It is going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of working together, and a lot of cooperation in order to accomplish that. Chairman Lott and Chairman Collins are committed to this timeframe. I encourage all of our colleagues to work with them to ensure that we can accomplish this goal. If Senators have amendments--and I recognize there will be a number of amendments--I urge them to discuss those amendments, the nature of those amendments, and make the language available as soon as possible with the managers. Let us keep amendments on the issue that is at hand, the issues surrounding ethics and lobbying. Tying up the bill with unrelated amendments, which we call nongermane amendments, is not in anybody's best interest. So let us stay on the bill as much as we possibly can. A final note. As we enter the debate--I think we will enter it--we are entering it in a tone of working together. It is not a partisan issue we are addressing. People expect us to work together to develop meaningful, nonpartisan solutions but bipartisan solutions to the real problems we know we will be addressing. Ethics is not a partisan issue. The rules apply, as they should, to every Senator and every staff member, regardless of party or stripe. No one gets a special exception. That is the spirit in which we should approach this bill. The rules we operate under are bipartisan. The reforms indeed are and should be bipartisan as well. It is my firm belief that as public servants we are obligated to protect the integrity of this fantastic, magnificent institution, and most importantly to represent the genuine interests of the voters--which is our responsibility--who sent us here. It is time for us to reexamine the rules so that bad apples are exposed before they spoil the whole lot. That is why I have brought this bill to the floor now so we can address it right up front early on in this session. Taking these steps will go a long way to lifting the cloud that threatens to obscure all of our other efforts to offer meaningful reforms and solutions to the problems we now face and that face all Americans. The issue is something very personal to me. I still consider myself a citizen legislator, coming here for a period of time and going back home. It causes me to reflect on my first vote as a Senator. It was on the Congressional Accountability Act, an act that ensures that Congress abides by the laws it passes. I believe deeply that we serve the people--not the other way around, and that spirit will be the spirit I believe we will all put forth in this debate over the next several days. We have a real opportunity before us--an opportunity to make government more transparent, more accountable, and to strengthen the American people's confidence in our body. Once again, I ask my colleagues to join together and deliver meaningful reforms, not only to fulfill our commitment to the American people but to protect and preserve the honor of this great institution we all have the privilege of serving. I yield the floor. ____________________