Senate Votes to Ban Gifts, Meals; Schumer Holds up Reform:
The Senate voted to ban lobbyists from providing lawmakers and their staffs with meals and gifts, according to the New York Times. The meal ban was attached to broader reform legislation and was approved unanimously by voice vote. Aside from the meal and gift ban the reform legislation would require members to disclosure all privately financed travel, double the “cooling off” period for legislators turned lobbyists from one year to two years, and allow members to challenge individual earmarks. The most contentious part of the reform legislation would “require, for the first time, the disclosure of big, paid grass-roots lobbying campaigns aimed at influencing government officials.” The Family Research Council, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the ACLU oppose this reform. Meanwhile, Roll Call reports that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), in an attempt to block the United Arab Emirates from taking over control of numerous US ports, attached an amendment to the lobbying reform legislation that would block the controversial port deal that is supported by the Bush administration. This has thrown the reform process into disarray as Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) filed for cloture to block Schumer’s amendment.