Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate today approved a measure sponsored by U.S. Senators Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would make the earmark process more transparent and make it more difficult to slip earmarks and riders into conference reports in the dead of night.
Senator Lott chairs the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and Senator Feinstein is a senior member of that committee.
“This measure takes a major step in changing how Washington does business,” Senator Feinstein said. “It would allow any Senator to raise a 60-vote point of order against provisions -- not approved by the House or Senate -- that have been inserted in conference reports. This would help move the process out of the shadows and into the light of day.”
“This won’t prevent legitimate projects from going forward, but it will ensure that earmarks are not added in the dead of night, with no scrutiny. It will also ensure that Congress maintains the flexibility to address natural disasters and other emergencies that arise. I thank Senator Lott for his leadership on this issue.”
The Lott/Feinstein measure does not prohibit earmarks. Instead, it allows a point of order against any matter (earmark or otherwise) that is added to a conference report that was not approved by either the House or the Senate.
To waive the point of order, a Senator would need 60 votes. If the point of order is sustained, the offending item would be stricken from the conference report, but the conference report itself would not fail. It would be passed back to the House for a vote, minus whatever items are deleted.
Additionally, the measure requires that Conference Reports include lists of the sponsors of earmarks and the justification for each earmark, and must be available to the Senate and on the Internet for at least 24 hours prior to consideration by the full Senate.