Senator: Reining in earmarks would boost image of Congress

A measure that would require audits of congressional earmarks and ban those that benefit private companies would improve the image of Congress, according to Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

Bennet’s Clean Up Earmarks Act of 2010 would offer much-needed transparency and remove conflicts of interest from the legislative process, Bennet said Thursday during a teleconference with Colorado reporters.

Although Congress is “slow to realize how much change we need to make,” Bennet said 60 senators have signed a letter to ban the practice of anonymous holds, which senators use to prevent some federal appointments.

“There is some optimism that we’re starting to move the ball forward, but it’s not easy,” Bennet said.

Other parts of Bennet’s earmark act would:

Require random audits of 5 percent of Senate earmarks;

Strengthen rules preventing members from quietly sliding earmarks into a conference report;

Require earmarks to appear in the actual language of the bill that enacts them;

Make improvements to Web disclosures of earmarks, including making earmarks searchable by any lobbyist associated with them;

Mandate public hearings on any earmark in excess of $5 million and recommend public hearings on any earmark in excess of $1 million.


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