Senate panel balks at reform

Today’s rejection by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee of a provision in reform legislation that would have established an Office of Public Integrity for the Congress shows an unwillingness to make substantive ethics reforms and a stunning disconnect between Members and an American public increasingly worried about the integrity of its elected officials. We commend Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) for their bipartisan and good faith effort to strengthen enforcement in the Senate by proposing the creation of an Office of Public Integrity.

If Congress wants the American public to believe that it is serious about reform efforts in the wake of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, as well as other recent scandals that have tarnished the image of the institution, it must approve a credible enforcement mechanism to assure that Members and lobbyists are complying with the rules. The excesses of the Abramoff scandal did not occur due to a lack of rules, but because the rules were not enforced. In rejecting the enforcement provision today, some senators argued that the ethics process in the Senate is working fine and that no changes are needed. We strongly disagree, and polls show that the American people disagree too.

We will continue to advocate for an independent and credible enforcement mechanism.