Joseph Lieberman on Government Reform
Democratic Jr Senator (CT, retiring 2012), ran for V.P. with Gore, ran for president 2004
LAMONT: I have done everything asked of me to respect the public’s right to know. We have submitted hundreds of pages of documentation on everything financial.
LIEBERMAN: He hasn’t answered the question. I take it that he is saying he will not release his returns. I think that’s an insult to the public’s right to know.
LIEBERMAN: We were all against the bridge to nowhere. But there are earmarks that are good. Is he against the earmarks I put in the bill for $50 million to decrease congestion along I-95, or the money for ferry service from Bridgeport? Those are good earmarks.
LAMONT: Alaska gets 10 times what we do. We’re not doing very well on that front. But more importantly, I think we should outlaw these earmarks. They corrupt the political process. They are written by lobbyists & they’re wrong. You support the earmarks, you work with the lobbyists, & that’s what needs to be changed.
LIEBERMAN: The earmarks are great for Connecticut
We are role models. We have voluntarily entered into a contract with the voters that is based on trust. If we violate that trust, our government, our democracy, suffers. So the first question a public figure must always ask himself when making a decision about his personal behavior or actions, about whether to take an opportunity, is not just “Is it legal?” but “Is it right?”
I ask my staff to imagine how they would feel if they knew that a particular action would be questioned the following morning in banner headlines on the front pages of the newspapers. The question should not be if it was legal (hopefully we would not knowingly do anything illegal). We called that our “Front Page Rule” and still try to live with it.
I have no doubt that if we fail to craft a workable substitute to the independent counsel, down the road, we’ll find ourselves in a crisis similar to Watergate or Iran-Contra or Whitewater, with a public skeptical of the legitimacy of the criminal process, and, possibly, with a president or attorney general more interested in their own careers, than in getting to the facts. Then, we will wish that in 1999 we had done more to preserve the bedrock democratic principle of the rule of law, that is the ability to independently prosecute even our most powerful officeholders.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For example, I am a big fan of McDonald's. What about the kids working behind the counter? Would they be considered registered lobbyists because McDonald's has lobbyists? Would I not be able to go to lunch with my longtime friend who owns 12 McDonald's?
Return Politics to the People
At a time when much of the world is emulating American values and institutions, too many Americans have lost confidence in their political system. They are turned off by a partisan debate that often seems to revolve not around opposing philosophies but around contending sets of interest groups. They believe that our current system for financing campaigns gives disproportionate power to wealthy individuals and groups and exerts too much influence over legislative and regulatory outcomes.
The time for piecemeal reform is past. As campaign costs soar at every level, we need to move toward voluntary public financing of all general elections and press broadcasters to donate television time to candidates.
The Internet holds tremendous potential for making campaigns less expensive and more edifying and for engaging Americans directly in electoral politics. We should promote the Internet as a new vehicle for political communication and champion online voting.
OnTheIssues.org Explanation: "527 organizations" were inspired by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. The "527" refers to the relevant section of the tax code. 527s are independent organizations which raise and spend money on behalf of a candidate, without coordinating with the candidate. An example is the "Swift Boat" group in the 2004 elections. OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to clarify when organizations described in section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code must register as political committees.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: This bill would end the illegal practice of "527" groups spending soft money on ads and other activities to influence Federal elections. A number of 527 groups raised and spent a substantial amount of soft money in a blatant effort to influence the outcome of last year's Presidential election. These activities are illegal under existing laws, and yet once again, the FEC has failed to do its job and has refused to do anything to stop these illegal activities. Therefore, we must pursue all possible steps to overturn the FEC's misinterpretation of the campaign finance laws, which is improperly allowing 527 groups whose purpose is to influence Federal elections to spend soft money on these efforts.
The bill we introduce today is simple. It would require that all 527s register as political committees and comply with Federal campaign finance laws, including Federal limits on the contributions they receive, unless the money they raise and spend is only in connection with non-Federal elections.
Enough is enough. It is time to stop wasting taxpayer's dollars on an agency that runs roughshod over the will of the Congress and the Constitution. We've fought too hard to sit back and allow this worthless agency to undermine the law.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. Hearings held; never came to a vote.
EXCERPTS OF BILL:
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs; Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar No. 369; never came to a vote.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: Expresses the sense of Congress that:
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. OBAMA: I am submitting a resolution to express the Senate's strong disapproval of recent efforts to disenfranchise Americans. Unfortunately, too many electoral reform efforts seem intent on limiting access to the ballot as opposed to expanding it. In the mid-20th century, the poll tax was the preferred means of disenfranchising large minority populations, specifically African Americans. Today, the poll tax is taking on a new form--a photo identification requirement for voters.
According to the National Commission on Federal Election Reform, such a requirement would "impose an additional expense on the exercise of the franchise, a burden that would fall disproportionately on people who are poorer and urban." Nevertheless, a number of States, including Georgia, have recently passed laws mandating government-issued photo identification for voters at the polls. Nationwide, at least 12% of eligible drivers do not have a driver's license. And Georgia has made it difficult for rural and urban folks to obtain their voter photo identification.
The Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform acknowledges that there is "no evidence of extensive fraud in U.S. elections or of multiple voting."
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; never came to a vote.
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Retiring as of Jan. 2013:
Senate elections Nov. 2012:
CA:Feinstein(D) vs.Emken(R) vs.Taitz(R)
CT:Bysiewicz(R) vs.Murphy(R) vs.Shays(R)
FL:Nelson(D) vs.LeMieux(R) vs.Connie Mack(R)
IN:Lugar(R) vs.Mourdock(R) vs.Donnelly(D)
MD:Cardin(D) vs.Wargotz(R) vs.Capps(R)
MI:Stabenow(D) vs.Hekman(R) vs.Konetchy(R) vs.Hoekstra(R)
MN:Klobuchar(D) vs.Arwood(R) vs.Hernandez(R) vs.Severson(R)
MO:McCaskill(D) vs.Akin(R) vs.Steelman(R)
NJ:Menendez(D) vs.Diakos(R) vs.
NY:Gillibrand(D) vs.Noren(D) vs.Maragos(R)
OH:Brown(D) vs.Pryce(R) vs.Mandel(R) vs.
TX:Cruz(R) vs.Leppert(R) vs.
UT:Hatch(R) vs.Ashdown(D) vs.
VA:Kaine(D) vs.Allen(R) vs.Radtke(R) vs.
WI:Schiess(R) vs.Neumann(R) vs.Thompson(R) vs.Kagen(D) vs.Baldwin(D) vs.Schiess(R)
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