February 1, 2006

Bush calls for lobbyist reform after Abramoff scandal

By Steve Holland

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - President George W. Bush
on Wednesday called for reforming the way lobbyists do business
in Washington in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal.

"I think clearly the Abramoff scandal has sent a terrible
signal to the American people, and we've got to examine what
laws are necessary to prevent people from, you know, taking
advantage of the system," Bush told Reuters in an interview
aboard Air Force One on the flight to Nashville.

The influence-peddling scandal involving Abramoff has
triggered a move on Capitol Hill to change the way lobbyists

Abramoff or his clients contributed campaign money to both
Republicans and Democrats, but most of the money went to
Republicans and Abramoff himself was a major fund-raiser for
the president's 2004 re-election campaign.

"In terms of political consequences, I think a close
scrutiny will show that people in both parties have been
involved in lobbying, being lobbied and therefore people in
both parties must come up with the solution. That's why last
night I praised people in both parties for working on a
solution," Bush said.

Asked if the scandal might have repercussions in November
midterm elections in which Republicans hope to hang on to
control of both houses of the U.S. Congress, Bush said this was
why he mentioned the need to end the practice of legislators
tagging on individual spending items to budget bills called

He also said the president should be given a line-item veto
authority to enable him to strike individual spending items, a
power the U.S. Congress has been reluctant to give to the White

"If you give the president the line-item veto you make sure
that spending bills are focused on priorities," he said.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives was making
its first stab at lobbying reform with a bill that would
prohibit former members of Congress who are lobbyists from
entry into the House chamber. The measure would also bar those
ex-lawmakers from the House gym and other facilities, where
they could lobby their former colleagues.

Congressional Republicans were trying to craft additional
ethics reform measures, including possibly banning the free
meals, trips and gifts that lobbyists have bestowed on

They also are looking at banning, or limiting the number of
special-interest projects that are inserted without committee
oversight into spending bills at the behest of lobbyists.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan)