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James Inhofe on Government Reform

Republican Sr Senator (OK)


Make discharge petition signatures a matter of public record

When a bill is introduced, it is assigned to a committee in the House of Representatives. In order for it to come to a vote, there would have to be a committee hearing. However, there was another more obscure method to bring it to the Floor for a vote, and that was for a majority of Members (218) to sign a Discharge Petition. No member of the press or public could view the Discharge Petition, and no Member of Congress was allowed to have a list of the other members who had signed a Discharge Petition. If any Member disclosed the names of anyone who had signed the Discharge Petition, the penalty was that the person could be expelled from the House.

This system seemed outrageous to me, and it was even more upsetting that no one had ever fought it. I introduced a Resolution that would make the signatures of a Discharge Petition a matter of public record.

I was proud to learn that this became known as one of the most significant reforms in the history of the House of Representatives.

Source: The Greatest Hoax, by James Inhofe, p. 7-9 , Feb 28, 2012

Congressional earmarks OK; bureaucratic earmarks not

I consider earmarks one of the most misunderstood words in our American language today. During the appropriations process, Congress may designate, through an earmark, that a certain amount of the funds available must be spent on a particular program or issue. These earmarks or appropriations are not additional funds added to the federal budget.

Here's the crux of the issue. The vast majority of funds are not earmarked by Congress. Executive-branch officials decide how to spend the funds in the vast majority of all programs. The process allows billions of dollars that were given to UNELECTED bureaucrats to dish out as they desired. Keep the concept very clear: unelected bureaucrats are given supervisory control over bureaucratic-agency earmarks.

You might ask why Executive branch or bureaucratic earmarks are any worse than Congressional earmarks. The answer is that in bureaucratic earmarks, most of the decisions are made by the career bureaucrats who are unaccountable to the people.

Source: The Greatest Hoax, by James Inhofe, p.184-185 , Feb 28, 2012

Earmarks protect national security

On the issue of earmarks, we didn't think that we would be starting by battling 2 Republican senators, but Mitch McConnell and James Inhofe initially came out in favor of this odious practice. They suggested that we just didn't "understand" the earmark issue. That if we would just listen to the wisdom of the Senate leadership, everything would be OK. After all, the amount of money earmarked was just a drop in the bucket--a mere $16 billion. So why did we even care about what amounted to a rounding error in the federal budget?

We explained that to those of us who work for a living, $16 billion sure sounded like a lot of money. So much, in fact, that it would cover the average American's mortgage payments for nearly 900,000 years.

At that point, the senators changed their tactics and tried to convince us that national security was at stake, and that without earmarks, the Defense Department wouldn't be able to defend the country.

Source: Tea Party Patriots, by M.Meckler & J.B.Martin, p. 70-71 , Feb 14, 2012

Opposes the Democratic ethics reform bill

In January, the Senate passed by a huge margin the most drastic ethics and lobbying overhaul in years. The fact is this bill is significantly different than the bill 92 members of the Senate agreed to in January. The original Ethics bill included my legislation which called Senators to task for their “Vote no and take the dough” pay-raise hypocrisy, where members vote against cost of living increases, yet invariably take the pay increase when it is approved. My legislation would have changed the system so that a vote against a pay raise really means no pay raise. This provision is just one of many that would have increased transparency in government and reduced Washington’s culture of hypocrisy, yet it was stripped from the final bill in an attempt by the Democrats to water-down the legislation. How much longer will the Democrats hide behind their claims of being the most ethical party while pushing through reforms crafted in the shadows of Congress?
Source: 2008 Senate campaign website, www.jiminhofe.com , Aug 12, 2008

Voted NO on Congressional pay raise.

Congressional Summary:
    Makes appropriations to the Senate for FY2010 for:
  1. expense allowances;
  2. representation allowances for the Majority and Minority Leaders;
  3. salaries of specified officers, employees, and committees (including the Committee on Appropriations);
  4. agency contributions for employee benefits;
  5. inquiries and investigations;
  6. the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control;
  7. the Offices of the Secretary and of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate;
  8. miscellaneous items;
  9. the Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account; and
  10. official mail costs.
Amends the Legislative Branch Appropriation Act of 1968 to increase by $50,000 the gross compensation paid all employees in the office of a Senator. Increases by $96,000 per year the aggregate amount authorized for the offices of the Majority and Minority Whip.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D, FL-20): We, as Members of Congress, have responsibility not just for the institution, but for the staff that work for this institution, and to preserve the facilities that help support this institution. We have endeavored to do that responsibly, and I believe we have accomplished that goal.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. SCALISE (R, LA-1): It's a sad day when someone attempts to cut spending in a bill that grows government by the size of 7%, and it's not allowed to be debated on this House floor. Some of their Members actually used the term "nonsense" and "foolishness" when describing our amendments to cut spending; they call that a delaying tactic. Well, I think Americans all across this country want more of those types of delaying tactics to slow down this runaway train of massive Federal spending. Every dollar we spend from today all the way through the end of this year is borrowed money. We don't have that money. We need to control what we're spending.

Reference: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act; Bill HR2918&S1294 ; vote number 2009-S217 on Jul 6, 2009

Voted NO on providing a US House seat for the District of Columbia.

Congressional Summary:

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Sen. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): I am cosponsoring the legislation to provide a House seat for DC and an additional House seat for Utah. Representation and suffrage are so central to the American system of self-government that America's founders warned that limiting suffrage would risk another revolution and could prevent ratification of the Constitution. The Supreme Court held in 1820 that Congress' legislative authority over DC allows taxation of DC. Do opponents of giving DC a House seat believe that DC is suitable for taxation but not for representation?

Opponent's argument to vote No:Sen. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I make a constitutional point of order against this bill on the grounds that it violates article I, section 2, of the Constitution. I appreciate the frustration felt by the residents of DC at the absence of a vote in Congress. According to many experts, DC is not a State, so therefore is not entitled to that representation. Also, one has to raise the obvious question: If DC is entitled to a Representative, why isn't Puerto Rico, which would probably entail 9 or 10 Members of Congress? [With regards to the seat for Utah], this is obviously partisan horse-trading.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S.160 ; vote number 2009-S073 on Feb 26, 2009

Voted NO on granting the District of Columbia a seat in Congress.

Cloture vote on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act:[Washington DC currently has a "delegate" to the US House, whose vote does not count. Utah had complained that the 2000 census did not count many Utahns on Mormon missions abroad].

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. BYRD: In 1978, I voted for H.J. Res. 554, that proposed amending the Constitution to provide for representation of D.C. [That amendment passed the Senate but was not ratified by the States]. While I recognize that others believe that the Constitution authorizes the Congress to "exercise exclusive legislation" over D.C., the historical intent of the Founders on this point is unclear. I oppose S.1257, because I doubt that our Nation's Founding Fathers ever intended that the Congress should be able to change the text of the Constitution by passing a simple bill.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. HATCH. There are conservative and liberal advocates on both sides of this issue,and think most people know Utah was not treated fairly after the last census. For those who are so sure this is unconstitutional, [we include an] expedited provision that will get us to the Supreme Court to make an appropriate decision. It will never pass as a constitutional amendment. There are 600,000 people in D.C., never contemplated by the Founders of this country to be without the right to vote. They are the only people in this country who do not have a right to vote for their own representative in the House. This bill would remedy that situation.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S. 1257 ; vote number 2007-339 on Sep 18, 2007

Voted YES on requiring photo ID to vote in federal elections.

Vote on Dole Amdt. S.2350, amending SP2350 (via the College Cost Reduction Act): To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require individuals voting in person to present photo identification.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. DOLE. I am proposing a commonsense measure to uphold the integrity of Federal elections. My amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls would go a long way in minimizing potential for voter fraud. When a fraudulent vote is cast and counted, the vote of a legitimate voter is cancelled. This is wrong, and my amendment would help ensure that one of the hallmarks of our democracy, our free and fair elections, is protected. Opinion polls repeatedly confirm that Americans overwhelmingly support this initiative.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. FEINSTEIN. If one would want to suppress the vote in the 2008 election, one would vote for this because this measure goes into effect January 1, 2008. It provides that everybody who votes essentially would have to have a photo ID. If you want to suppress the minority vote, the elderly vote, the poor vote, this is exactly the way to do it. Many of these people do not have driver's licenses. This amendment would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to actually carry out. It goes into effect--surprise--January 1, 2008 [to affect the presidential election]. I urge a "no" vote.

Reference: Dole Amendment to the Help America Vote Act; Bill S.2350, amending SP2350 ; vote number 2007-269 on Jul 19, 2007

Voted YES on allowing some lobbyist gifts to Congress.

A motion to table (kill) an amendment to clarify the application of the gift rule to lobbyists. Voting NAY would define employees of lobbying companies as registered lobbyists and therefore subject to the gift ban. Voting YEA would apply the gift ban only to specific people who registered as lobbyists.
Reference: Feingold Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act; Bill S.Amdt.2962 to S.2349 ; vote number 2006-080 on Mar 29, 2006

Voted NO on establishing the Senate Office of Public Integrity.

An amendment to establish the Senate Office of Public Integrity. Voting YEA would establish the new office, and voting NAY would keep ethics investigations within the existing Senate Ethics Committee.
Reference: Collins Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act; Bill S.Amdt.3176 to S.2349 ; vote number 2006-077 on Mar 28, 2006

Voted NO on banning "soft money" contributions and restricting issue ads.

Vote on passage of H.R. 2356; Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (Shays-Meehan bill, House equivalent of McCain-Feingoldf bill). Vote to ban “soft money” contributions to national political parties but permit up to $10,000 in soft money contributions to state and local parties to help with voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. The bill would stop issue ads from targeting specific candidates within 30 days of the primary or 60 days of the general election. Additionally, the bill would raise the individual contribution limit from $1,000 to $2,000 per election for House and Senate candidates, both of which would be indexed for inflation.
Reference: Bill HR.2356 ; vote number 2002-54 on Mar 20, 2002

Voted YES on require photo ID (not just signature) for voter registration.

Motion to Table Schumer Amdt. No. 2937; To permit the use of a signature or personal mark for the purpose of verifying the identity of voters who register by mail, and for other purposes. Voting Yes would kill the amendment. The amendment would allow a signature to identify voters who register by mail, instead of requiring showing photo identification or other proof of residence before being allowed to vote.
Reference: Bill S.565 ; vote number 2002-38 on Feb 27, 2002

Voted NO on banning campaign donations from unions & corporations.

Vote to ban soft money donations to political parties and forbid corporate general funds and union general funds from being spent on issue ads. The bill would increase the individual contribution limit to candidates from $1,000 to $2,000.
Reference: Bill S.27 ; vote number 2001-64 on Apr 2, 2001

Voted NO on funding for National Endowment for the Arts.

This table motion would end debate on an amendment aimed at funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Support for the motion to table is a vote for NEA funding. [YES to table means supporting the NEA; NO means defunding the NEA].
Status: Motion to Table Agreed to Y)80; N)16; NV)4
Reference: Motion to table Smith Amdt #1569; Bill H.R. 2466 ; vote number 1999-260 on Aug 5, 1999

Voted NO on favoring 1997 McCain-Feingold overhaul of campaign finance.

Support of the campaign finance bill proposed by Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Feingold (D-WI).
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)53; N)47
Reference: Campaign Finance Reform Bill; Bill S. 25 ; vote number 1997-267 on Oct 7, 1997

Voted YES on Approving the presidential line-item veto.

Approval of the presidential line-item veto authority.
Status: Conf Rpt Agreed to Y)69; N)31
Reference: Conference Report on S. 4; Bill S. 4 ; vote number 1996-56 on Mar 27, 1996

Voted YES on banning more types of Congressional gifts.

To exclude certain items from the Congressional Gift Ban.
Status: Amdt Failed Y)39; N)60; NV)1
Reference: Murkowski Amdt to S. 1061; Bill S. 1061 ; vote number 1995-339 on Jul 28, 1995

Ensure delivery of absentee ballots for troops overseas.

Inhofe co-sponsored ensuring delivery of absentee ballots for troops overseas

A bill to improve procedures for the collection and delivery of absentee ballots of absent overseas uniformed services voters. Congress makes the following findings:

  1. In the defense of freedom, members of the United States Armed Forces are routinely deployed to overseas locations.
  2. We live in what senior Army leaders have referred to as an 'era of persistent conflict'.
  3. The right to vote is one of the most basic and fundamental rights enjoyed by Americans, and one which the members of the Armed Forces bravely defend.
  4. The ability of the members of the Armed Forces to vote while serving overseas has been hampered by numerous factors, including inadequate processes for ensuring their timely receipt of absentee ballots, delivery methods that are typically slow and antiquated, and a myriad of absentee voting procedures that are often confusing.
  5. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which requires the States to allow absentee voting for members of the Armed Forces and other specified groups of United States citizens, was intended to protect the voting rights of members of the Armed Forces.
  6. 992,034 absentee ballots were requested in the 2006 general election. However, less than one-third of such ballots were ultimately received by local election officials, evidencing an unacceptable failure of the current absentee ballot system.
  7. Modern technology continues to rapidly advance, greatly expanding the range of potential solutions to these problems and increasing the ability to remove obstacles encountered by overseas members of the Armed Forces in the past in trying to cast their votes; [specifically]:
Source: S.3073 08-S3073 on May 22, 2008

Prohibit IRS audits targeting Tea Party political groups.

Inhofe co-sponsored Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act

Congressional summary:: Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act: Requires the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) standards and definitions in effect on January 1, 2010, for determining whether an organization qualifies for tax-exempt status as an organization operated exclusively for social welfare to apply to such determinations after enactment of this Act. Prohibits any regulation, or other ruling, not limited to a particular taxpayer relating to such standards and definitions.

Proponent's argument in favor (Heritage Action, Feb. 26, 2014): H.R. 3865 comes in the wake of an attack on the Tea Party and other conservative organizations. The current IRS regulation is so broad and ill-defined that the IRS applies a "facts and circumstances" test to determine what constitutes "political activity" by an organization. This test can vary greatly depending on the subjective views of the particular IRS bureaucrat applying the test. IRS employees took advantage of this vague and subjective standard to unfairly delay granting tax-exempt status to Tea Party organizations and subject them to unreasonable scrutiny.

Text of sample IRS letter to Tea Party organizations:We need more information before we can complete our consideration of your application for exemption. Please provide the information requested on the enclosed Information Request by the response due date. Your response must be signed by an authorized person or officer whose name is listed on your application.

Source: H.R.3865 & S.2011 14-S2011 on Feb 11, 2014

Ban paid voter registration.

Inhofe signed Voter Fraud Prevention Act

A bill to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to establish standards for the distribution of voter registration application forms and to require organizations to register with the State prior to the distribution of such forms.

    Prohibits any individual from distributing, for compensation, a voter registration application form for federal elections in a state if the individual:
  1. has been convicted of a felony under any state or federal law;
  2. does not sign and print legibly the individual's name on the form;
  3. does not provide identifying information to the proper election official; or
  4. does not certify, under penalty of perjury, that he or she has not received financial compensation based on the number of voter registration application forms submitted by the individual to an election official upon completion by the applicant, and that the information provided by the individual is accurate to the best of the individual's knowledge.
Excepts from this prohibition the distribution of a voter registration application form by an individual who is not compensated directly or indirectly for it.

Establishes criminal penalties for: (1) individuals not meeting such standards; and (2) anyone who employs such an individual knowingly, or who should reasonably be expected to know the individual is ineligible.

Source: S.1103 2009-S1103 on May 20, 2009

Require all laws to cite Constitutional authorization.

Inhofe signed Enumerated Powers Act

A bill to require Congress to specify the source of authority under the United States Constitution for the enactment of laws.

Each Act of Congress shall contain a concise explanation of the specific constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that Act. The failure to comply with this section shall give rise to a point of order in either House of Congress. The availability of this point of order does not affect any other available relief.

Constitutional Authority for This Act: This Act proposes to establish new procedures by which legislation shall be considered by Congress and is enacted pursuant to the power granted Congress under article I, section 5, clause 2, of the United States Constitution establishing that each House may determine the rules of its proceedings.

Source: S.1319&HR450 2009-S1319 on Jun 22, 2009

Other candidates on Government Reform: James Inhofe on other issues:
OK Gubernatorial:
Brad Henry
Mary Fallin
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Matt Silverstein
T.W. Shannon
Tom Coburn

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Page last updated: Mar 10, 2014