You Have to Admit It's Getting Better...

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Feb 03, 2006 1:40 PM

I mentioned Rep. Steve King's efforts to bring some transparency to Congress the other day.

After I spoke with him, his staff sent me a letter he penned to Rep. David Dreier in anticipation of possible reforms being considered in the House. Here are some excerpts, so you can get a better idea of what an insider thinks the Congress needs:

On travel:

I support real-time (within five days or less) reporting of all privately funded travel and contributions, including PAC and campaign donations. This reporting should be done electronically so that any member of the public can access it using the internet. The information should be searchable and sortable for full transparency so that the data can be evaluated quickly and objectively. Sunshine and accountability puts the power back in the hands of the American people at the polls.

On getting legislation online:

In this age of instantaneous global communications, our institution is not up to speed. Amendments, conference reports and bills brought to a vote on the House floor are often not yet available online. I know we can do a better job of uploading searchable documents immediately so that Members have the text before they are required to vote. This is common sense. One of my first votes in Congress was a 3,600 page omnibus bill that spent billions of taxpayer dollars, yet was unavailable online or on paper. I would like to see our Conference take the lead in bringing our work into the electronic age.

This is one of Mark Tapscott's pet issues, so I'll be staying in touch with him about it, and his blog is a great place to check in on if you're into these issues also.

Back to King, on earmarks:

Earmarks have their place but they are abused by those who have the most power. The current rhetoric in opposition to earmarks can be solved with a single annual bill before Congress. Saving the best for last, I am calling for a rescissions bill, brought to the House floor under an open rule every year at the end of the appropriations process. Every line item would then be up for reconsideration. No member could make excuses because the process would provide a record of their actions. Unnecessary and ridiculous items would be struck by majority vote of the full Congress.

The more talk about this kind of stuff, the better. There is hope. I mean, Trent Lott and Dianne Feinstein introduced earmark reform together yesterday.

And, Human Events runs a headline I never thought I'd see: Competing Earmark Reform Plans Emerge in Senate.