Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California. Mr. Chairman, it is essential to those of us who have been elected to serve in this body to have confidence that the interests of the constituents are being served. The democratic process as well as the integrity of the people's House require no less.
As the Supreme Court recognized in Buckley v. Valeo, it is both corruption and even the appearance of corruption which threaten the public trust and warrant congressional regulatory action. The safeguards contained in this [Page: H2039]
amendment will protect the integrity of the process by allowing private travel which has nothing to do with corruption and which in fact contributes to our ability to effectively represent those who have elected us.
This bipartisan compromise provides that the Ethics Committee shall have until June 15 of this year to develop a permanent plan governing future private travel. In the interim, private travel would be allowed if, after its review, two-thirds of the Ethics Committee approves the trip. That requires bipartisan approval.
Our amendment will protect legitimate travel which relates to our ability as Members of this body, and I ask for support of this amendment.
Mr. DREIER. Mr. Chairman, I would like to compliment the gentleman for his leadership on this issue.
Again, this is an indication of our ability to work in a bipartisan way to deal with a question that constantly came to me from Democrats on the other side of the aisle who talked about the notion of imposing a travel ban, and some Members on our side. I believe Mr. Lungren and all of those Members, Mr. Berman from California and Mr. Cole on the Rules Committee, have worked very diligently, and I look forward to accepting this amendment.
Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding; and I want to thank the cosponsors of this legislation and those who have worked on this from both sides of the aisle.
For the first time this amendment will give the Ethics Committee an opportunity to revise the rules and the standards of conduct for travel which Members of Congress engage in. This amendment embraces all travel that Members of Congress are confronted with, whether it is from the 501(c)(3) community or from the private community.
I happen to think that the Ethics Committee is going to have to make different determinations for different kinds of travel. But the fact of the matter is, because of this amendment, they will have that responsibility to bring greater transparency to that process. And hopefully Members will have to get pre-approval of that travel, and hopefully the Ethics Committee will have to approve that. They will make determinations about what is a legitimate itinerary, the attendance at the various conferences,
the participants and the sources of funding.
The problem with travel in the past has not been the travel; it has been those who sought out deliberately to game the system. I believe that if the Ethics Committee meets its responsibility, people will not be able to game the system, to hide the sources of financing or hide the purposes of the trip; and Members will be able to deal with it forthrightly and take advantage of travel where it is helpful to their jobs as Members of Congress, to their constituents, and to the country.
Also, this will allow for the kind of disclosure and prior disclosure of the trips hopefully so constituents, the press and others can check out what the Ethics Committee has done and they can comment on it. The Members will defend it or not defend it if they want to take these trips and if they truly believe they are valuable.
This give us until June 15 for the Ethics Committee to come up with that process. If there is travel to take place prior to that, it requires a two-thirds vote, a strong bipartisan vote of the Ethics Committee to approve any travel prior to that day.
I think this is a big step to the reform of congressional travel in the House. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.
Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. Cole), one of the cosponsors of this amendment.
Mr. COLE of Oklahoma. Mr. Chairman, I want to take a moment and thank my friends on the other side of the aisle, particularly Mr. Miller and Mr. Berman, for working with us; and, of course, my friends on this side of the aisle, Mr. Lungren, whose leadership has been so critical on this, Mr. Flake, and, of course, Mr. Hastings, chairman of the Ethics Committee.
This really is a moment where we have come together and thought about what is best for the institution instead of trying to score political points against one another. I think we have taken a dramatic step.
I agree very much with my friend, Mr. Miller. This offers the opportunity for real scrutiny and a real look at the entire travel issue; and I look forward to working with Mr. Berman and Chairman HASTINGS on the Ethics Committee, to come back with a scheme that both sides can have confidence in and the American people can have confidence in.
In conclusion, I thank the chairman, Mr. Dreier, and certainly the Speaker. This would not have happened without their help and without their active cooperation so we could resolve what was a knotty issue. They, too, deserve a great deal of credit for working in a bipartisan manner and allowing this to come about.