On Capitol Hill, Knives Quietly Sharpened for Ethics Reform Bill

Under heightened public scrutiny, the House and Senate both passed versions of ethics reform legislation. Now, the competing bills move out from under the spotlight and into a quiet, closed room on Capitol Hill, where a handful of senators and congressmen will decide what language will actually make it into the final version of the bill.

You know who was pointedly not invited by leadership to participate in this vital process? Two senior senators involved in writing a good portion of the Senate bill, who had pushed for stronger measures. (They were rebuffed.) The Washington Post‘s Ruth Marcus opines:

Guess who’s not coming to conference: The chairman, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and ranking Democrat Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Conn.), of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which shares jurisdiction over the subject with the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

Collins and Lieberman had backed much tougher lobbying reform — especially an independent ethics enforcement office — than the Senate ultimately passed. No wonder Senate leaders didn’t want them anywhere near the conference.

You know who did make the cut? Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK). “[I]f you think [Stevens] will be a champion of lobbying reform,” Marcus cracks, “I’ve got a bridge to nowhere to sell you.”

“This is the way the push for lobbying reform ends, not with a bang but a maneuver — indecipherable to outsiders but quietly effective,” concludes Marcus.