WASHINGTON – House and Senate Democratic leaders vowed Wednesday to end what they called the Republican “culture of corruption.”
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid,Nev.,and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi,Calif.,denounced government scandals involving lobbyists' gifts,favoritism in government contracting and unqualified government officials.
“For a long time now,an ethical cloud has hung over the Capitol,” Pelosi said. She emphasized the need for reform and transparent government.
Sen. Barack Obama,D-Ill.,and Rep. Louise Slaughter,D-N.Y.,also spoke at the press conference at the Library of Congress. All four signed the “Democratic Declaration of Honest Leadership and Open Government.”
The culture they described includes no-bid contracts for Halliburton,the oil industry service company,the Federal Emergency Management Agency's inability to assist survivors of Hurricane Katrina and Texas Republican Tom Delay's resignation as House majority leader after he was indicted on charges of violating campaign finance laws.
Pelosi outlined key legislation intended to keep special interests out of lawmaking and regain Americans' trust in the federal government.
The legislation would make it harder for former members of Congress to lobby legislators. It would also forbid legislators from accepting gifts or travel from lobbyists – current law places a dollar limit on such gifts.
The Democrats said their plan would ensure federal officials were qualified for their jobs.
“Brownie certainly wasn't doing a ‘heck of a job' for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina,” Pelosi said,referring to the nickname and praise President Bush gave to former FEMA chief Michael D. Brown after Hurricane Katrina. Brown soon left the agency after intense criticism.
Pelosi said she has urged the House ethics committee to begin investigating members' relationships with lobbyists.
She added that ending the “Republican agenda,” or business as usual,will allow leaders to focus on the public's interests,rather than special interests.
“Taken together,Democratic proposals will lead this country in a new direction,put an end to business as usual,and make certain this nation's leaders serve the people's interest,not the special interests,” Pelosi said.