What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Adequate Government Funding for a Broad Range of Human Needs : S. 1. (Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007), Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) amendment to require the disclosure of the sponsors and recipients of specific funding set asides that allocate money for a given project, location, industry or institution/Motion to table (kill) (2007 senate Roll Call 5)
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S. 1. (Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007), Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) amendment to require the disclosure of the sponsors and recipients of specific funding set asides that allocate money for a given project, location, industry or institution/Motion to table (kill)
senate Roll Call 5     Jan 11, 2007
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Loss

This vote was on a motion to table (kill) an amendment proposed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) that would have mandated that all earmarks - line-items in spending bills that benefit a specific agency, program, institution or locale - be fully disclosed, meaning the sponsoring lawmaker as well as the recipient would have to be put in a public record. There has been increasing support for this reform in recent years after many well-publicized abuses of lawmakers trading specific appropriations requests for campaign contributions.

But earmarks are also at the core of how Congress functions, and they are the bread-and-butter of efforts by the leadership in both the House and Senate to haggle with lawmakers to vote one way or another on a particular piece of legislation by offering them the ability to slip in funding for a specific program or institution in their respective districts. What distinguished DeMint's proposal from the language in the underlying lobbying reform bill was its application to both federal and non-federal projects. The earmark language already in the lobbying reform bill would only require disclosure of non-federal projects (such as those for private institutions, corporations, and state and local governments).

The bill to which DeMint was attempting to amend would overhaul Congressional lobbying and ethics rules for Senators and their staffs. The legislation would prohibit the acceptance of gifts and free meals, extend the time period before former Senators can become lobbyists and outlaw lobbyist-funded travel.

DeMint defended the scope of his amendment by saying: "We do need to disclose and make transparent every favor we do for an entity. We use language here many times in the chamber that I don't think Americans understand. When we talk about earmarks, we are talking usually about lobbyists who come and appeal on behalf of some organization or business or whatever for us to do them a favor with taxpayer money. It may be a municipality that wants a bridge. It may be a defense contractor that wants a big contract from us. And if we put that money in an appropriations bill designated just for them, it is an earmark."

Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said that DeMint's amendment would be unworkable "because it is so broad." While acknowledging that there have been "abuses," Durbin went on to say that the earmark process "by and large" isn't broken. He called the disclosure requirements in DeMint's amendment a "very burdensome responsibility."

DeMint countered that if his amendment didn't pass, the bill would only require disclosure of 5 out of every 100 earmarks. That's the "dirty little secret," he said.

"That is not honest transparency. If we are going to go through this process and if we are going to change the laws and try to tell the American people that now you can see what we are doing, let's don't try to pull the wool over their eyes," DeMint added.

DeMint's definition of an earmark to include both federal and non-federal projects mirrored the language in the House version of the lobbying reform bill proposed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

By a vote of 46-51, the Senate rejected the motion to table DeMint's amendment, and thus the amendment would get an up-or-down vote in the chamber. This was the true test of Senators' positions on this issue, as when the came up for a final vote a week later, the approval was unanimous. Seven Republicans joined 38 Democrats in voting to kill the amendment, and 41 Republicans joined with 9 Democrats in supporting DeMint.

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