Four House Committees approved a lobbying and ethics reform bill today, according to the Associated Press.
The House bill would require lobbyists to make more frequent and detailed disclosures of their contacts with lawmakers; impose a moratorium, until the end of this year, on all privately funded travel; and require more information on the pet projects, or earmarks, that make their way into spending bills.
The Judiciary Committee, which approved its section of the bill on a 18-16 vote, approved criminal penalties that could lead, with multiple violations, to up to five years in prison for lawmakers and lobbyists who intentionally fail to report receiving or giving meals and other gifts.
The Government Reform and House Administration committees approved provisions that would deny pension benefits to members of Congress, staff or political appointees in the executive branch convicted of crimes related to public corruption.
The Rules Committee also accepted an amendment that would withhold pay from House employees who do not complete a mandatory ethics training program.
Democrats were unhappy with the bill claiming that it did not go far enough in cracking down on the lobbying culture. The bill does not ban gifts or meals from lobbyists as the Senate version does and it does not create an independent ethics oversight office. Democrats also felt that the process was not handled in a bipartisan manner as they were shut out of meetings and not allowed to participate. House Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) stated, "Its objective is to give the semblance of reform without actually doing anything. That’s Congress at its worst." Bob Ney, in a possible self-referential statement in support of the bill, said, "Nobody is above the law."