Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sens. Obama, Coburn, Kissing Cousins

The Hill

Sens. Obama, Coburn make unlikely duo

By Alexander Bolton

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), a fast-rising leader in the Democratic Party, and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), whom conservatives view as one of their most principled spokesmen, have forged an unlikely alliance in the debate on lobbying reform.

Both lawmakers have played prominent roles in the legislative wrangling over how to address lobbying abuses in the wake of lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s crimes. Democratic leaders tapped Obama early on to spearhead the debate over reform, and Coburn has emerged as a leading critic of earmarks, teaming up with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in vowing to challenge colleagues’ projects on the Senate floor.

Coburn has co-sponsored all five amendments that Obama has filed for the lobbying reform package. Obama has crafted a range of proposals:
• A prohibition on paid coordination of lobbying activities.
• A ban on lawmakers’ negotiating future employment as lobbyists.
• A prohibition on advocating for earmarks in which the lawmaker has a financial interest.
• A prohibition on buying votes with earmarks.
• A requirement that earmarks be available for scrutiny during business days.

It is unclear when or whether the Senate will vote on the duo’s amendments. Senate leaders scheduled votes on two different amendments to the reform package yesterday afternoon and had hoped to finish consideration of it quickly.

The unlikely pairing of Obama and Coburn has raised eyebrows in Senate leadership circles and among other observers.

“That’s an odd alliance,” remarked a senior Democratic leadership aide.

But an aide to Coburn said that his boss admires Obama’s integrity.

Read the rest of the article here.

Comment: Cynicism aside, anytime I read the dripping collegiality as found in this article, the red flags go up. Senators from two opposing parties are not coming together to strengthen the working ethics, but rather to develop unenforceable rules to advance their power.

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