Boehner Opposes Sweeping Lobbying Reform

Dana Milbank reports that newly elected House Majority Leader John Boehner has announced he is against sweeping bans of taking travel money from lobbyists.

Newly elected House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said he opposed efforts to ban privately funded travel for members of Congress and provisions in spending bills that fund lawmakers’ pet projects.

The views of Boehner, elected by his GOP colleagues on Thursday to succeed Rep. Tom DeLay, make it less likely that the more far-reaching proposals to restructure lobbying will become law. In interviews on a pair of television talk shows, Boehner amplified his earlier concerns about such broad responses to the Jack Abramoff scandal, including proposals offered by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). “In the past, when these scandals have erupted, what’s happened is Congress has overreacted, and two days later nobody knew what happened,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” He said he would favor more disclosure of dealings with lobbyists but would not seek complete bans on travel or “earmark” provisions. “Bringing more transparency to this relationship, I think, is the best way to control it. But taking actions to ban this and ban that, when there’s no appearance of a problem, there’s no foundation of a problem, I think, in fact, does not serve the institution well.”

This announcement is not news in the sense of being new. Boehner has said this repeatedly, including during his conference call with bloggers.

That said, I disagree with his position. He is right, of course, that traveling is often a very worthwhile thing for Members to do. The question, though, is why not simply have the taxpayers fund trips rather than groups or citizens with business before the Congress?

I disagree with Milbank, too, that Boehner’s opposition will have a major impact on reform proposals. Hastert outranks him. And the fact that Boehner was chosen over status-quo candidate Roy Blunt is a strong indication that the caucus understands the political pressure on them to reform. Even if many agree with Boehner on principle, they are likely to vote with Hastert on politics.

Update: The editors juxtapose two related stories in an amusing headline in today’s Earlybird: “Congress: Boehner Opposes Travel Ban; Sanders Collapses.”

(The latter refers to Congressman Bernie Sanders’ collapse from flu symptoms over the weekend. He’s fine.)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    “The question, though, is why not simply have the taxpayers fund trips rather than groups or citizens with business before the Congress?”

    Why don’t we just have taxpayers pay for their re-election campaigns too while we’re at it?

  2. James Joyner says:

    McGehee: Public funding of election campaigns is problematic for a variety of reasons. But, surely, paying for business trips is well within the realm of legitimate expenditure of public funds? This would require some actual business rationale for the trips, of course.