With the U.S. Senate paralyzed by partisan gridlock that has all but upended efforts to make real progress for the American people, I have introduced a sweeping set of legislative reforms that will help fix the worst parts of a broken Washington.
The Plan for Washington Reform will limit increases in salaries of Members of Congress; end Federal health insurance benefits for Members of Congress until they have passed health insurance reform; usher in sweeping changes that will limit Members of Congress and their staffs from becoming lobbyists; institute reform that will provide more transparency and accountability in the earmarking process; reform the filibuster rule in a responsible and practical way; and implement new rules for campaign finance.
Specifically, the Plan for Washington Reform would:
Salaries, Spending, and Perks
• Freeze congressional member pay until there are 4 quarters of job growth
• Freeze congressional office budgets until there are 4 quarters of job growth
• End Federal health insurance benefits for Members of Congress unless health care reform passes that eliminates discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, increases coverage, doesn't cut guaranteed Medicare benefits, and is paid for
• Require Congressional candidates to reimburse in full for the cost of charter jet travel, and require disclosure of lobbyists traveling with a Member of Congress on a charter jet.
• Place a lifetime ban on Members of Congress becoming lobbyists
• Ban congressional staff from lobbying their former boss for 6 years
• Ban former committee staff from lobbying their former boss or any member of the committee who was active during their time on staff for 6 years
• Ban lobbyists from joining congressional staff or committee staff for 6 years
• Require ‘Substantial Lobbying Entities' to report on the former Members of Congress and former Congressional staff that they employ
• Improve web site so that public can better track lobbying
• Enhance maximum fine for violating lobbyist regulations to $500,000
• Ban earmarks to private, for-profit companies and institutions.
• Make earmarks transparent
- Members of Congress must report all earmark requests received and made
- Earmarks.gov to list all earmarks requests, sortable by member of Congress
• Hold Members of Congress accountable on earmark requests
- Earmark requests above $1 million should go before the Appropriations Committee, and earmark requests above $5 million must go before the Committee for a public hearing
• Hold earmarks recipients accountable
- Each year, a portion of all earmarks, chosen at random, will be audited to ensure that taxpayer money is being spent wisely.
Reform Senate Floor Procedure
• Eliminate anonymous holds
• Require holds to be bipartisan within two days. Even bipartisan holds expire in 30 days.
• Require 41 Senators to show up to vote in order to block cloture, or else it's invoked
- After 3rd failed cloture vote, the minority must find a member of the opposite party or the threshold raises to 45 votes.
- After the 3rd cloture vote, if the majority finds support from three members of the minority, it raises to 45 votes.
• End the filibuster for motions to proceed
Campaign Finance Reform
• Support campaign finance legislation to require CEOs to stand by their ads, quick disclosure and sunshine rules, restrictions on foreign corporations and TARP recipients.
• Support constitutional amendment allowing regulation of contributions and expenditures.