Johnny Isakson on Government Reform
Republican Jr Senator; previously Rep (GA-6)
Fight Senate blocking of judicial nominees
Q: Johnny, what do you see as the greatest challenges in the Senate?
A: It is a national travesty that a single Senator - such as Ted Kennedy or Hillary Clinton - can block action on matters that are critical to our nation’s future.
We must break this stranglehold on the people’s business and elect a Senator that will vote on judicial nominees and move legislation passed by the House and supported by the President.
Source: 2004 Senate campaign website, Isakson.net, “Ask Johnny”
, Aug 13, 2004
End frivolous lawsuits
Frivolous lawsuits against small businesses, manufacturers, and doctors hurt all Americans by slowing economic growth and driving up the costs of goods and services.
For example, it is ridiculous to force a restaurant to pay millions when a customer at a drive through spills hot coffee in their lap. We need to shut the door on these lawsuits.
Source: 2004 Senate campaign website, Isakson.net, “Issues”
, Aug 13, 2004
Voted NO on providing a US House seat for the District of Columbia.
- The District of Columbia shall be considered a Congressional district for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives.
- DC shall not be considered a State for purposes of representation in the US Senate.
- Reapportionment [census-based House seats] shall apply with respect to DC in the same manner as it applies to a State, except that DC may not receive more than one Member.
- Effective with the 112th Congress, the House of Representatives shall be composed of 437 Members, including the Member representing DC.
- The State of Utah is entitled to one additional Representative pursuant to this reapportionment.
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;
; 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].
- Considers D.C. a congressional district for purposes of representation in the House.
- D.C. shall not be considered a state for representation in the Senate.
- Limits D.C. to one Member under any reapportionment.
- Increases membership of the House from 435 to 437.
- Entitles Utah to one additional Representative until the next census, and modifies the reapportionment formula thereafter.
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.
Proponents of the amendment say to vote NAY on the tabling motion because:
Reference: Feingold Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act;
Bill S.Amdt.2962 to S.2349
; vote number 2006-080
on Mar 29, 2006
- Using the term "registered lobbyist'' will create a huge loophole. The Ethics Committee treats the actual listed lobbyists as registered lobbyists, but not the organization.
- So, for example, a company can give a Senator free tickets to a show or a baseball game, as long as a lobbyist doesn't actually offer or handle them. If the lobbyist's secretary makes the call, that would be permitted.
- If these companies can still give gifts, we won't have a real lobbyist gift ban. We won't be able to look the American people in the eye and say, "We just banned gifts from lobbyists,'' because we didn't.
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.
Proponents of the bill say to vote YEA because:
- We have heard from the media about the bribes and scandals, but we have heard only silence from the House Ethics Committee. One of the greatest travesties of these scandals is not what Congress did, but what it didn't do.
- The American people perceive the entire ethics system--House and Senate--to be broken. We can pass all the ethics reforms we want--gift bans, travel bans, lobbying restrictions--but none of them will make a difference if there isn't a nonpartisan, independent body that will help us enforce those laws.
- The Office of Public Integrity established in this amendment would provide a voice that cannot be silenced by political pressures. It would have the power to initiate independent investigations
and bring its findings to the Ethics Committees in a transparent manner.
Opponents of the bill say to vote NAY because:
Reference: Collins Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act;
Bill S.Amdt.3176 to S.2349
; vote number 2006-077
on Mar 28, 2006
- The Constitution gave us not only the right but the duty to create our own rules, including the rules concerning our ethics. They are enforced internally by the Senate itself.
- The decisions made under this amendment would be no different than right now. The final decision will be made by the Senate Ethics Committee. All this really does is find a way to further publicize that complaints have been made.
- We have people accusing us almost daily of having done something wrong and publishing it through blogs and all that. I think we should be very careful in setting up another tool for these bloggers to create more charges against the Senate.
- I cannot support an amendment that either replaces the Senate Ethics Committee or adds another layer to our already expensive and time-consuming process. I urge the Senate to defeat this provision.
Voted YES on restricting frivolous lawsuits.
Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2004: Amends the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to:
Reference: Bill sponsored by Rep Lamar Smith [R, TX-21];
; vote number 2004-450
on Sep 14, 2004
- require courts to impose sanctions on attorneys, law firms, or parties who file frivolous lawsuits (currently, sanctions are discretionary);
- disallow the withdrawal or correction of pleadings to avoid sanctions;
- require courts to award parties prevailing on motions reasonable expenses and attorney's fees, if warranted;
- authorize courts to impose sanctions that include reimbursement of a party's reasonable litigation costs in connection with frivolous lawsuits; and
- make the discovery phase of litigation subject to sanctions.
Voted NO on campaign finance reform banning soft-money contributions.
Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Overhaul: Vote to pass a bill that would 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 sponsored by Shays, R-CT, and Meehan D-MA;
Bill HR 2356
; vote number 2002-34
on Feb 14, 2002
Voted YES on banning soft money donations to national political parties.
Support a ban on soft money donations to national political parties but allow up to $10,000 in soft-money donations to state and local parties for voter registration and get-out-the vote activity.
Bill HR 2356
; vote number 2001-228
on Jul 12, 2001
Voted NO on banning soft money and issue ads.
Campaign Finance Reform Act to ban "soft money" and impose restrictions on issue advocacy campaigning.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT;
Bill HR 417
; vote number 1999-422
on Sep 14, 1999
Ensure delivery of absentee ballots for troops overseas.
Isakson 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:
- In the defense of freedom, members of the United States Armed Forces are routinely deployed to overseas locations.
- We live in what senior Army leaders have referred to as an 'era of persistent conflict'.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Collection- establish procedures for collecting absentee ballots
- Ensuring Delivery Prior to Closing of Polls- ensure that any absentee ballot which is collected prior to the applicable deadline is delivered prior to the time established by the State for the closing of the polls on the date of the election.
Identify constitutionality in every new congressional bill.
Isakson signed the Contract From America
The Contract from America, clause 1. Protect the Constitution:
Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.
Source: The Contract From America 10-CFA01 on Jul 8, 2010
Audit federal agencies, to reform or eliminate them.
Isakson signed the Contract From America
The Contract from America, clause 5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington:
Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality,
Source: The Contract From America 10-CFA05 on Jul 8, 2010
Moratorium on all earmarks until budget is balanced.
Isakson signed the Contract From America
The Contract from America, clause 9. Stop the Pork:
Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.
Source: The Contract From America 10-CFA09 on Jul 8, 2010
Require Internet disclosure of all earmarks.
Isakson signed H.R.5258& S.3335
- Establishes a free public searchable website, listing all requests by Members of Congress for congressionally directed spending items (congressional earmarks).
- Requires each congressional committee, within five calendar days of receipt of a request for a congressional earmark from a Member of Congress, to provide the initial information regarding that request that is required to be placed on the website.
- Makes it out of order to consider any legislation unless it meets the requirements of this Act.
The website shall be comprised of a database including the following information, in searchable format, for each earmark:
Source: Earmark Transparency Act 10-HR5258 on May 11, 2010
- The fiscal year in which the item would be funded.
- The number of the bill or joint resolution for which the request is made, if available.
- The amount of the initial request made by the Member of Congress.
- The amount approved by the committee of jurisdiction.
The amount carried in the bill or joint resolution (or accompanying report) as passed.
- The name of the department or agency, and the account or program, through which the item will be funded.
- The name and the State or district of the Member of Congress who made the request.
- The name and address of the intended recipient.
- The type of organization (public, private nonprofit, or private for profit entity) of the intended recipient.
- The project name, description, and estimated completion date.
- A justification of the benefit to taxpayers.
- Whether the request is for a continuing project and if so, when funds were first appropriated for such project.
- A description, if applicable, of all non-Federal sources of funding.
- Its current status in the legislative process
Matching fund for small donors, with debate requirements.
Isakson signed Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act
Congressional Summary:Fair Elections Now Act--Amends 1971 FECA with respect to:
- 500% matching payments to candidates for certain small dollar contributions;
- a public debate requirement;
- establishment of the Fair Elections Fund and of a Fair Elections Oversight Board;
- remission to the Fair Elections Fund of unspent funds after an election civil penalties for violation of contribution and expenditure requirements;
- Requires all designations, statements, and reports required to be filed under FECA to be filed directly with the FEC in electronic form accessible by computers.
Statement of support for corresponding Senate bill: (Sunlight Foundation) Now we bring you the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, a bill that should probably be the least controversial of all. S. 375 would simply require senators and Senate candidates to file their public campaign finance disclosure reports electronically with the Federal Election Commission,
the way House candidates and presidential candidates have been filing for over a decade. A version of the bill has been introduced during every congress starting in 2003 (!) yet it has been blocked repeatedly, a victim of political football.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has introduced the most recent version, which would ensure that paper Senate campaign finance reports are a thing of the past. But even with 50 bipartisan cosponsors, the bill faces an uphill battle. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, has repeatedly prevented the bill from coming to the Senate floor. We won't be deterred--as long as McConnell continues to block the bill, we'll continue to highlight that his intransigence results in delayed disclosure of vital, public campaign finance information, not to mention wasting $500,000 in taxpayer money annually. Eventually, we'll win.
Source: S375/H.R.269 14_S375 on Feb 25, 2013
Prohibit IRS audits targeting Tea Party political groups.
Isakson co-sponsored Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act
Congressional summary:: Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act: Requires the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) standards and definitions in effect on January 1, 2010, for determining whether an organization qualifies for tax-exempt status as an organization operated exclusively for social welfare to apply to such determinations after enactment of this Act. Prohibits any regulation, or other ruling, not limited to a particular taxpayer relating to such standards and definitions.
Proponent's argument in favor (Heritage Action, Feb. 26, 2014): H.R. 3865 comes in the wake of an attack on the Tea Party and other conservative organizations. The current IRS regulation is so broad and ill-defined that the IRS applies a "facts and circumstances" test to determine what constitutes "political activity" by an organization. This test can vary greatly depending on the subjective views of the particular IRS bureaucrat applying the test.
IRS employees took advantage of this vague and subjective standard to unfairly delay granting tax-exempt status to Tea Party organizations and subject them to unreasonable scrutiny.
Text of sample IRS letter to Tea Party organizations:We need more information before we can complete our consideration of your application for exemption. Please provide the information requested on the enclosed Information Request by the response due date. Your response must be signed by an authorized person or officer whose name is listed on your application.
Source: H.R.3865 & S.2011 14-S2011 on Feb 11, 2014
- Have you conducted or will you conduct candidate forums or other events at which candidates running for public offices are invited to speak?
- Have you attempted or will you attempt to influence the outcome of specific legislation?
- Do you directly or indirectly communicate with members of legislative bodies?
- Do you have a close relationship with any candidate for public office or political party?
Restrict campaign donations from foreigners or 3rd parties.
Isakson co-sponsored restricting campaign donations from foreigners or 3rd party
To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to increase the penalties imposed for making or accepting contributions in the name of another and to prohibit foreign nationals from making any campaign-related disbursements.
Source: Conduit Contribution Prevention Act (H.R.1747) 1999-H1747 on May 11, 1999
- Increase civil & criminal penalties for knowing and willful violations of the prohibition against making or accepting contributions in the name of another.
- Sets both civil and criminal fines at not less than 300% of the amount involved in the violation and not more than the greater of $50,000 or 1,000% of such amount.
Mandates a criminal fine or two years' imprisonment, or both.
- Limits criminal penalties to violations involving an amount aggregating $1,000 or more during a calendar year.
- Changes from discretionary to mandatory the authority of the Federal Election Commission to refer to the Attorney General any instance of probable cause that a violation of such prohibition has occurred.
- Revises the current ban on contributions by foreign nationals to encompass all disbursements by foreign nationals, including any disbursement to a political committee of a political party and any disbursement for an independent expenditure.
Require all laws to cite Constitutional authorization.
Isakson 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
Reduce federal government size & scope, including military.
Isakson adopted the Republican Main Street Partnership issue stance:
The federal government must reduce its size and scope, and cede certain federally operated policies and services to the states and private sector that are better equipped to handle them. One way to accomplish this would be to limit growth of government spending at or even below the inflation rate. Long-term economic growth is dependent upon sustained federal discipline. We believe this is the time to carefully assess both our domestic discretionary and our military commitments. In both areas, we face a potential fiscal imbalance between our program commitments and our available resources. Perhaps neither the Congress nor the American people fully appreciate the impact of budget decisions in these areas. We owe it to the nation and its future to undertake an honest dialogue regarding the implications of these decisions on the state, local and private sectors.
Source: Republican Main St. Partnership Issue Paper: Fiscal Policy 98-RMSP4 on Sep 9, 1998
Page last updated: Aug 29, 2017