Sen. Obama took a risk and joined forces with Sen. Russ Feingold to push through tougher ethics reform measures. Obama had invested serious political capital in the legislation, and its ultimate success is a major victory for Obama's
From the Chicago Tribune:
After a spirited debate over the year's first order of business, the Senate reached a bipartisan agreement on ethics reform Thursday and approved a package designed to burnish its image in the wake of recent corruption scandals.
The Senate voted 96-2 for a measure that would prohibit lobbyists from paying for gifts for lawmakers and their staffs, including travel. It also would require full disclosure on which lawmakers have requested funding earmarks for specific projects in lawmakers' home states or districts.
"Today is a new day in the Senate: No more secret earmarks; no more gifts and trips paid for by special interests . . . and no more leaving government service and cashing in immediately on your contacts and experience as a lobbyist," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said after the vote Thursday night. "Public service is a privilege, not a commodity to be traded or sold for profit."
Failure of the ethics plan would have been a blow to Durbin and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who invested some of his political capital in pursuit of a serious ethics reform package.
After Democratic and Republican leaders introduced their bipartisan working version of an ethics plan, pressure from Obama and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) inspired them to open the measure up for some tougher restrictions.
Under pressure from Obama and Feingold, the Senate also adopted changes that would require lawmakers to fully reimburse the owners of corporate jets whenever they make use of them. Special interest groups frequently make their jets available for use by lawmakers, who are only required to reimburse the owners at the rate they would have paid for a first-class commercial seat.