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US Congress Sends Bush Lobby Reform Bill


The U.S. Senate Thursday approved legislation that strengthens ethics and lobbying laws. The measure, which passed the House of Representatives earlier this week, now goes to President Bush for his signature. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

The bill, which the Senate passed on an 83 to 14 vote, would bar members of the House and Senate from accepting gifts from lobbyists and require them to provide details about campaign donations raised by lobbyists.

"It provides transparency in campaign contributions, in bundling - where lobbyists give you a stack of checks. All that has to be disclosed now," said Senator Ben Cardin is a Maryland Democrat.

The measure also would require members of Congress to disclose more information about funding they insert into budget bills that could benefit popular local projects and thus potentially boost lawmakers' reelection prospects.

But some Republicans said the bill has provisions that could allow lawmakers to circumvent the disclosure requirements - an argument echoed by White House spokesman Tony Snow. "The language has been considerably weakened, and furthermore, the reporting requirements have been reduced to no requirements at all," he said.

Political watchdog groups agree that the measure is not as tough as initial legislation unveiled by the House and Senate earlier this year, but they nevertheless praised it as an important step.

"Is it perfect? No. I will wait in vain probably for that legislation that we pass here that is perfect. But because of our process, because of the glorious nature of a democracy, it is always a matter of give and take, it is always a matter of finding compromise, to find that piece of legislation to get enough votes and send it to the president's desk," said Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat.

Democrats, who took control of Congress following last November's election, say passage of the legislation fulfills a campaign promise made last year after two Republican congressman and a high-profile Republican lobbyist were convicted on bribery charges.

Although Democrats sought to link Republicans to what they called a culture of corruption on Capitol Hill, a member of their own party, Democratic Congressman William Jefferson was indicted on bribery charges earlier this year.

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