February 1, 2006

Bush wants lobbyist reform after Abramoff scandal

By Steve Holland

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - President Bush on
Wednesday called for overhauling the way lobbyists do business
in Washington in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, and the
House of Representatives took a first step but delayed
introduction of a broader measure.

On a 379-50 vote, the Republican-led House changed its
rules to ban access by former members-turned-registered
lobbyists to its chamber and gym.

But introduction of a broader Republican bill to tighten
lobbying laws was pushed back to provide more time to build

Bush, in an interview with Reuters aboard Air Force One
while en route from Washington to Nashville a day after his
annual State of the Union address, said, "We've got to examine
what laws are necessary to prevent people from, you know,
taking advantage of the system."

The influence-peddling scandal involving Abramoff, a
longtime Republican lobbyist, has triggered a move on Capitol
Hill to change the way lobbyists operate.

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.

Bush said, "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

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 Congress has been reluctant to give to the White House.

While most Democrats backed Wednesday's first tentative
move to tighten access, many also ridiculed it, saying far more
needed to be done. Members of both parties agreed.

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

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.

Rep. David Dreier of California, a member of the Republican
leadership, had indicated he would introduce a sweeping reform
bill on Wednesday as the House began its work for the year.

But following a meeting with fellow Republicans, Dreier
said: "We do not have the legislation prepared to file today.

"I can't say exactly when we're going to be introducing
it," he added. "But obviously we'll be looking at different
ideas ... It's our hope that we'll be able to have a package in
the next week or two."

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Thomas Ferraro)