Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On Lobbying Reform, Veto Unlikely to Prevent Enactment

The other day I posted on a report that the Congressional leadership has decided to hold the lobbying reform bill -- which has already passed the House and Senate -- in anticipation of a possible presidential veto. While holding the bill can't prevent a veto of course, it will prevent the President from issuing a pocket veto. Democratic leaders believe that blocking a pocket veto will ensure more attention to it.

But while my Congressional contacts don't know whether the President will sign the bill or veto it, there are no indications that the White House is actively trying to line up support to sustain a veto. And that's probably the critical question.

Both Houses voted for the bill by decisive margins. It passed the House by a margin of 411-8 and the Senate by 80-17. To sustain a veto, the President would need to flip about 15 votes in the Senate or about 130-140 in the House. To do that takes some 'Member outreach,' and there seems to be no indication that it's happening.

Many conservatives (and the White House) oppose the bill because it guts earmark reform. But it's worth remembering that while there are few issues where bipartisanship is the rule, earmarks are definitely one. If the President does veto the bill, there are certainly a number of Republicans who might change their vote to side with him. But there are probably even more who would be just as happy to see an ethics bill enacted that does nothing major on earmarks.

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