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John Ensign on Government Reform

Republican Jr Senator (NV)


Voted NO on Congressional pay raise.

Congressional Summary:
    Makes appropriations to the Senate for FY2010 for:
  1. expense allowances;
  2. representation allowances for the Majority and Minority Leaders;
  3. salaries of specified officers, employees, and committees (including the Committee on Appropriations);
  4. agency contributions for employee benefits;
  5. inquiries and investigations;
  6. the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control;
  7. the Offices of the Secretary and of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate;
  8. miscellaneous items;
  9. the Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account; and
  10. official mail costs.
Amends the Legislative Branch Appropriation Act of 1968 to increase by $50,000 the gross compensation paid all employees in the office of a Senator. Increases by $96,000 per year the aggregate amount authorized for the offices of the Majority and Minority Whip.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D, FL-20): We, as Members of Congress, have responsibility not just for the institution, but for the staff that work for this institution, and to preserve the facilities that help support this institution. We have endeavored to do that responsibly, and I believe we have accomplished that goal.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. SCALISE (R, LA-1): It's a sad day when someone attempts to cut spending in a bill that grows government by the size of 7%, and it's not allowed to be debated on this House floor. Some of their Members actually used the term "nonsense" and "foolishness" when describing our amendments to cut spending; they call that a delaying tactic. Well, I think Americans all across this country want more of those types of delaying tactics to slow down this runaway train of massive Federal spending. Every dollar we spend from today all the way through the end of this year is borrowed money. We don't have that money. We need to control what we're spending.

Reference: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act; Bill HR2918&S1294 ; vote number 2009-S217 on Jul 6, 2009

Voted NO on providing a US House seat for the District of Columbia.

Congressional Summary:

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Sen. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): I am cosponsoring the legislation to provide a House seat for DC and an additional House seat for Utah. Representation and suffrage are so central to the American system of self-government that America's founders warned that limiting suffrage would risk another revolution and could prevent ratification of the Constitution. The Supreme Court held in 1820 that Congress' legislative authority over DC allows taxation of DC. Do opponents of giving DC a House seat believe that DC is suitable for taxation but not for representation?

Opponent's argument to vote No:Sen. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I make a constitutional point of order against this bill on the grounds that it violates article I, section 2, of the Constitution. I appreciate the frustration felt by the residents of DC at the absence of a vote in Congress. According to many experts, DC is not a State, so therefore is not entitled to that representation. Also, one has to raise the obvious question: If DC is entitled to a Representative, why isn't Puerto Rico, which would probably entail 9 or 10 Members of Congress? [With regards to the seat for Utah], this is obviously partisan horse-trading.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S.160 ; vote number 2009-S073 on Feb 26, 2009

Voted NO on granting the District of Columbia a seat in Congress.

Cloture vote on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act:[Washington DC currently has a "delegate" to the US House, whose vote does not count. Utah had complained that the 2000 census did not count many Utahns on Mormon missions abroad].

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. BYRD: In 1978, I voted for H.J. Res. 554, that proposed amending the Constitution to provide for representation of D.C. [That amendment passed the Senate but was not ratified by the States]. While I recognize that others believe that the Constitution authorizes the Congress to "exercise exclusive legislation" over D.C., the historical intent of the Founders on this point is unclear. I oppose S.1257, because I doubt that our Nation's Founding Fathers ever intended that the Congress should be able to change the text of the Constitution by passing a simple bill.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. HATCH. There are conservative and liberal advocates on both sides of this issue,and think most people know Utah was not treated fairly after the last census. For those who are so sure this is unconstitutional, [we include an] expedited provision that will get us to the Supreme Court to make an appropriate decision. It will never pass as a constitutional amendment. There are 600,000 people in D.C., never contemplated by the Founders of this country to be without the right to vote. They are the only people in this country who do not have a right to vote for their own representative in the House. This bill would remedy that situation.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S. 1257 ; vote number 2007-339 on Sep 18, 2007

Voted YES on requiring photo ID to vote in federal elections.

Vote on Dole Amdt. S.2350, amending SP2350 (via the College Cost Reduction Act): To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require individuals voting in person to present photo identification.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. DOLE. I am proposing a commonsense measure to uphold the integrity of Federal elections. My amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls would go a long way in minimizing potential for voter fraud. When a fraudulent vote is cast and counted, the vote of a legitimate voter is cancelled. This is wrong, and my amendment would help ensure that one of the hallmarks of our democracy, our free and fair elections, is protected. Opinion polls repeatedly confirm that Americans overwhelmingly support this initiative.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. FEINSTEIN. If one would want to suppress the vote in the 2008 election, one would vote for this because this measure goes into effect January 1, 2008. It provides that everybody who votes essentially would have to have a photo ID. If you want to suppress the minority vote, the elderly vote, the poor vote, this is exactly the way to do it. Many of these people do not have driver's licenses. This amendment would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to actually carry out. It goes into effect--surprise--January 1, 2008 [to affect the presidential election]. I urge a "no" vote.

Reference: Dole Amendment to the Help America Vote Act; Bill S.2350, amending SP2350 ; vote number 2007-269 on Jul 19, 2007

Voted YES on allowing some lobbyist gifts to Congress.

A motion to table (kill) an amendment to clarify the application of the gift rule to lobbyists. Voting NAY would define employees of lobbying companies as registered lobbyists and therefore subject to the gift ban. Voting YEA would apply the gift ban only to specific people who registered as lobbyists.
Reference: Feingold Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act; Bill S.Amdt.2962 to S.2349 ; vote number 2006-080 on Mar 29, 2006

Voted NO on establishing the Senate Office of Public Integrity.

An amendment to establish the Senate Office of Public Integrity. Voting YEA would establish the new office, and voting NAY would keep ethics investigations within the existing Senate Ethics Committee.
Reference: Collins Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act; Bill S.Amdt.3176 to S.2349 ; vote number 2006-077 on Mar 28, 2006

Voted NO on banning "soft money" contributions and restricting issue ads.

Vote on passage of H.R. 2356; Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (Shays-Meehan bill, House equivalent of McCain-Feingoldf bill). Vote to ban “soft money” contributions to national political parties but permit up to $10,000 in soft money contributions to state and local parties to help with voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. The bill would stop issue ads from targeting specific candidates within 30 days of the primary or 60 days of the general election. Additionally, the bill would raise the individual contribution limit from $1,000 to $2,000 per election for House and Senate candidates, both of which would be indexed for inflation.
Reference: Bill HR.2356 ; vote number 2002-54 on Mar 20, 2002

Voted NO on banning campaign donations from unions & corporations.

Vote to ban soft money donations to political parties and forbid corporate general funds and union general funds from being spent on issue ads. The bill would increase the individual contribution limit to candidates from $1,000 to $2,000.
Reference: Bill S.27 ; vote number 2001-64 on Apr 2, 2001

Sponsored bill allowing individual votes on each earmark.

Ensign introduced allowing individual votes on each earmark

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to provide greater accountability of taxpayers' dollars by curtailing congressional earmarking.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: This bipartisan bill changes the Senate rules to allow points of order to be raised against unauthorized appropriations and policy riders in appropriations bills and conference reports in an effort to reign in wasteful pork barrel spending.

In 1994, there were 4,126 Congressional earmarks added to the annual appropriations bills. In 2005, there were 15,877 earmarks, the largest number yet, that's an increase of nearly 300%! The level of funding associated with those earmarks has more than doubled from $23 billion in 1994 to $47 billion in 2005.

Our bill would establish a new procedure which would allow a 60-vote point of order to be raised against specific provisions that contain unauthorized appropriations, including earmarks, as well as unauthorized policy changes in appropriations bills and conference reports. Successful points of order would not kill a conference report, but the targeted provisions would be removed from the conference report.

To ensure that Members are given enough time to review appropriations bills, our proposal would also require that conference reports be available at least 48 hours prior to floor consideration.

To promote transparency, our bill requires that any earmarks included in a bill be disclosed fully in the bill's accompanying report, along with the name of the Member who requested the earmark and its essential governmental purpose.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; never came to a vote.

Source: Pork-Barrel Reduction Act (S.2265) 06-S2265 on Feb 9, 2006

Ensure delivery of absentee ballots for troops overseas.

Ensign co-sponsored ensuring delivery of absentee ballots for troops overseas

A bill to improve procedures for the collection and delivery of absentee ballots of absent overseas uniformed services voters. Congress makes the following findings:

  1. In the defense of freedom, members of the United States Armed Forces are routinely deployed to overseas locations.
  2. We live in what senior Army leaders have referred to as an 'era of persistent conflict'.
  3. The right to vote is one of the most basic and fundamental rights enjoyed by Americans, and one which the members of the Armed Forces bravely defend.
  4. The ability of the members of the Armed Forces to vote while serving overseas has been hampered by numerous factors, including inadequate processes for ensuring their timely receipt of absentee ballots, delivery methods that are typically slow and antiquated, and a myriad of absentee voting procedures that are often confusing.
  5. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which requires the States to allow absentee voting for members of the Armed Forces and other specified groups of United States citizens, was intended to protect the voting rights of members of the Armed Forces.
  6. 992,034 absentee ballots were requested in the 2006 general election. However, less than one-third of such ballots were ultimately received by local election officials, evidencing an unacceptable failure of the current absentee ballot system.
  7. Modern technology continues to rapidly advance, greatly expanding the range of potential solutions to these problems and increasing the ability to remove obstacles encountered by overseas members of the Armed Forces in the past in trying to cast their votes; [specifically]:
Source: S.3073 08-S3073 on May 22, 2008

Require Internet disclosure of all earmarks.

Ensign signed H.R.5258& S.3335

    The website shall be comprised of a database including the following information, in searchable format, for each earmark:
  1. The fiscal year in which the item would be funded.
  2. The number of the bill or joint resolution for which the request is made, if available.
  3. The amount of the initial request made by the Member of Congress.
  4. The amount approved by the committee of jurisdiction.
  5. The amount carried in the bill or joint resolution (or accompanying report) as passed.
  6. The name of the department or agency, and the account or program, through which the item will be funded.
  7. The name and the State or district of the Member of Congress who made the request.
  8. The name and address of the intended recipient.
  9. The type of organization (public, private nonprofit, or private for profit entity) of the intended recipient.
  10. The project name, description, and estimated completion date.
  11. A justification of the benefit to taxpayers.
  12. Whether the request is for a continuing project and if so, when funds were first appropriated for such project.
  13. A description, if applicable, of all non-Federal sources of funding.
  14. Its current status in the legislative process
Source: Earmark Transparency Act 10-HR5258 on May 11, 2010

Ban paid voter registration.

Ensign signed Voter Fraud Prevention Act

A bill to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to establish standards for the distribution of voter registration application forms and to require organizations to register with the State prior to the distribution of such forms.

    Prohibits any individual from distributing, for compensation, a voter registration application form for federal elections in a state if the individual:
  1. has been convicted of a felony under any state or federal law;
  2. does not sign and print legibly the individual's name on the form;
  3. does not provide identifying information to the proper election official; or
  4. does not certify, under penalty of perjury, that he or she has not received financial compensation based on the number of voter registration application forms submitted by the individual to an election official upon completion by the applicant, and that the information provided by the individual is accurate to the best of the individual's knowledge.
Excepts from this prohibition the distribution of a voter registration application form by an individual who is not compensated directly or indirectly for it.

Establishes criminal penalties for: (1) individuals not meeting such standards; and (2) anyone who employs such an individual knowingly, or who should reasonably be expected to know the individual is ineligible.

Source: S.1103 2009-S1103 on May 20, 2009

Require all laws to cite Constitutional authorization.

Ensign signed Enumerated Powers Act

A bill to require Congress to specify the source of authority under the United States Constitution for the enactment of laws.

Each Act of Congress shall contain a concise explanation of the specific constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that Act. The failure to comply with this section shall give rise to a point of order in either House of Congress. The availability of this point of order does not affect any other available relief.

Constitutional Authority for This Act: This Act proposes to establish new procedures by which legislation shall be considered by Congress and is enacted pursuant to the power granted Congress under article I, section 5, clause 2, of the United States Constitution establishing that each House may determine the rules of its proceedings.

Source: S.1319&HR450 2009-S1319 on Jun 22, 2009

Limit punitive damages; term limits on Congress.

Ensign signed the Contract with America:

[As part of the Contract with America, within 100 days we pledge to bring to the House Floor the following bills]:

The Common Sense Legal Reforms Act:
“Loser pays” laws, reasonable limits on punitive damages, and reform of product liability laws to stem the endless tide of litigation.
The Citizen Legislature Act:A first-ever vote on term limits to replace career politicians with citizen legislators.
Source: Contract with America 93-CWA11 on Sep 27, 1994

Government is too big, too intrusive, too easy with money.

Ensign signed the Contract with America:

This year’s election offers the chance, after four decades of one-party control, to bring to the House a new majority that will transform the way Congress works. That historic change would be the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public’s money. It can be the beginning of a Congress that respects the values and shares the faith of the American family.

Like Lincoln, our first Republican president, we intend to act “with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.” To restore accountability to Congress. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace. To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves.

    On the first day of the 104th Congress, the new Republican majority will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government:
  1. Require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;
  2. Select a major independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud, and abuse;
  3. Cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
  4. Limit the terms of all committee chairs;
  5. Ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;
  6. Require committee meetings to be open to the public;
  7. Require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase
  8. Guarantee an honest accounting of our federal budget by implementing zero baseline budgeting.
Source: Contract with America 93-CWA2 on Sep 27, 1994

Other candidates on Government Reform: John Ensign on other issues:
NV Gubernatorial:
Brian Sandoval
NV Senatorial:
Dean Heller
Harry Reid

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Retiring in 2014 election:
GA:Chambliss(R)
IA:Harkin(D)
MI:Levin(D)
MT:Baucus(D)
NE:Johanns(R)
SD:Johnson(D)
WV:Rockefeller(D)

Retired as of Jan. 2013:
AZ:Kyl(R)
CT:Lieberman(D)
HI:Akaka(D)
ME:Snowe(R)
ND:Conrad(D)
NE:Nelson(D)
NM:Bingaman(D)
TX:Hutchison(R)
VA:Webb(D)
WI:Kohl(D)
Senate Retirements 2014:
GA:Chambliss(R)
IA:Harkin(D)
MI:Levin(D)
MT:Baucus(D)
NE:Johanns(R)
OK:Coburn(R)
SD:Johnson(D)
WV:Rockefeller(D)

Senate races Nov. 2014:
AK: Begich(D) vs.Miller(R) vs.Treadwell(R) vs.Sullivan(R)
AL: Sessions(R,unopposed)
AR: Pryor(D) vs.Cotton(R)
CO: Udall(D) vs.Gardner(R) vs.Baumgardner(R) vs.Buck(R) vs.Hill(R) vs.Stephens(R)
DE: Coons(D) vs.O`Donnell(R)
GA: Nunn(D) vs.Perdue(R) vs.Kingston(R) vs.Gingrey(R) vs.Handel(R) vs.Broun(R)
HI: Schatz(D) vs.Hanabusa(D) vs.Cavasso(R)
IA: Braley(D) vs.Ernst(R) vs.Whitaker(R) vs.Clovis(R)
ID: Risch(R) vs.Mitchell(D)
IL: Durbin(D) vs.Oberweis(R) vs.Hansen(L) vs.Truax(R)
KS: Roberts(R) vs.Tiahrt(R) vs.Wolf(R) vs.Taylor(D) vs.Orman(I)
KY: McConnell(R) vs.Bevin(R) vs.Grimes(D)
LA: Landrieu(D) vs.Cassidy(R) vs.Maness(R)
MA: Markey(D) vs.Herr(R) vs.Skarin(I) vs.Gomez(R)
ME: Collins(R) vs.D`Amboise(R) vs.Bellows(D)
MI: Land(R) vs.Peters(D) vs.Wiedenhoeft(R)
MN: Franken(D) vs.McFadden(R) vs.Abeler(R) vs.Ortman(R)
MS: Cochran(R) vs.Childers(D) vs.McDaniel(R)
MT: Walsh(D) vs.Daines(R) vs.Edmunds(R) vs.Bohlinger(D)
NC: Hagan(D) vs.Tillis(R)
NE: Sasse(R) vs.Domina(D) vs.Haugh(L) vs.Osborn(R)
NH: Shaheen(D) vs.Brown(R) vs.Smith(R) vs.Rubens(R) vs.Testerman(R) vs.Martin(R)
NJ: Booker(D) vs.Bell(R) vs.Sabrin(R)
NM: Udall(D) vs.Weh(R) vs.Clements(R)
OK-2: Lankford(R) vs.Johnson(D) vs.Shannon(R)
OK-6: Inhofe(R) vs.Silverstein(D)
OR: Merkley(D) vs.Wehby(R) vs.Conger(R)
RI: Reed(D) vs.Zaccaria(R)
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SC-6: Graham(R) vs.Hutto(D) vs.Ravenel(I) vs.Stamper(D) vs.Mace(R) vs.Bright(R)
SD: Rounds(R) vs.Weiland(D) vs.Pressler(I)
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TX: Cornyn(R) vs.Alameel(D) vs.Roland(L) vs.Stockman(R)
VA: Warner(D) vs.Gillespie(R) vs.Sarvis(L)
WV: Capito(R) vs.Tennant(D) vs.Raese(R) vs.McGeehan(R)
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Contact info:
Fax Number:
202-228-2193
Mailing Address:
Senate Office SR-119, Washington, DC 20510
Phone number:
(202) 224-6244

Page last updated: Aug 07, 2014