Congress to make fresh effort on lobbyists, gifts


WASHINGTON -- For years, Congress has largely deflected the public clamor for members to clamp down on freewheeling lobbyists and to curb their own appetite for free tickets, meals and vacations from special interests.

Lawmakers came tantalizingly close to passing a stringent bill last year, but the effort fizzled in a Senate filibuster.

Now they're going to try again.

Today, according to Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., the Senate will launch a debate on legislation to control the registration of paid lobbyists and their gifts.

There are indications that a bipartisan compromise is possible on the lobbying portion of the reform bill. But there is still a wide gulf between the two sides on banning certain gifts and other freebies to members of Congress.

On the lobbying issue, the intent is to require the thousands of paid lobbyists who routinely ply their trade here to register with Congress, to identify their clients, to report how much they are paid to lobby, and to specify the issues on which they are trying to influence the votes of senators and representatives. The aim is to help the public determine the sources of pressure on lawmakers.

If the contenders are converging on a compromise on lobbying, they are diverging on the gift ban.

At the moment, there appears to be little momentum for such legislation in the House, where the leadership has been cool to the idea -- even though some reformers in both parties have recommended various remedies.

But if the Senate passes a bill, House leaders will be under heavy pressure to deal with the matter.

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