WASHINGTON – Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer accused Republican House members Tuesday of delaying action on a $23 billion spending bill in an effort to attach a provision prohibiting the use of federal money for lobbying.
Hoyer, of Mitchellville, and Reps. Peter J. Visclosky, D-Ind., and David E. Skaggs, D-Colo., criticized a delay in action on legislation that would approve spending for President Clinton’s executive office, the U.S. Tax Court, the Federal Election Commission and nearly three dozen other federal agencies.
The bill was approved by the House July 19 and the Senate Aug. 7. It has been the subject of a House-Senate conference committee, meeting to resolve differences, since Sept. 13.
Hoyer said his patience is “wearing thin.”
At the center of the dispute is a proposal by Republican Reps. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Timonium, Md., Jim Istook of Oklahoma and David McIntosh of Indiana that would prohibit funds from any federal grant to be used for lobbying Congress.
Ehrlich called his “grant reform proposal” a “reasonable attempt to put an end to a practice which had been one of the best- kept secrets in Washington – taxpayer-subsidized lobbying by federal grantees,” he said in a statement.
Ehrlich said the proposal applies only to the 100,000 organizations – such as universities, think tanks and nonprofit groups – that receive federal grants. He said it would affect about 10 percent of all nonprofit organizations.
But Skaggs called the GOP proposal “absurd, intrusive and un- American.” He added, “It’s the mother of all regulatory proposals coming from those who espouse an anti-regulation philosophy.”
Visclosky criticized what he called an “abuse of the appropriations process to an unheralded degree” by GOP efforts to insert legislation unrelated to spending.
However, he added that Democrats also have been guilty of this. “I wouldn’t say either party has very clean hands,” he said.
Organizations receive federal grants for a variety of programs. For example, the National Council of Senior Citizens received $76 million in 1994 for community work programs for senior citizens, said spokesman Patrick Burns. Some Republicans accused the council of using federal grant money to lobby against Medicare changes.
Burns said the organization funds lobbying efforts with some of the $5 million it receives each year from membership dues and other non-federal sources.
The House and Senate negotiators working on the funding bill are scheduled to meet again Wednesday. The Senate language, offered by Sen. Alan K. Simpson, R-Wyo., would affect only tax-exempt groups with more than $10 million in annual revenue, including federal grants.