Bill coming that would require lawmakers to disclose free travel

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Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) said Wednesday that he will introduce a bill to reinstate the requirement for lawmakers to report privately sponsored travel.

"We are given a special trust by our constituents who send us to Washington as their representatives; they expect us to operate in an open and transparent manner," Fitzpatrick wrote in a letter to the House Ethics Committee.

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Fitzpatrick said he plans to introduce the legislation when Congress returns from recess next week unless the House Ethics Committee reverses its decision. Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack (Iowa) plans to team up with him on the bill, a Loebsack spokesman told The Hill.

National Journal reported this week that the House Ethics Committee quietly rescinded a requirement, which had been in effect since the 1970s, that lawmakers report privately funded travel on their annual financial disclosure forms. 

House members must still report any travel with all expenses paid for by private groups within 15 days of the trip to the clerk of the House. The information is later posted on the clerk's public website.

Nonetheless, the change has sparked protests from government accountability and campaign finance reform groups who say allowing members to leave the free trips off their disclosure forms reduces transparency.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday also urged the House Ethics Committee to reverse course. She indicated that Democrats would also push legislation to undo the Ethics Committee's change.

"If the Ethics Committee does not act, then we will call upon the Speaker to allow a vote on legislation to reverse this decision," Pelosi said.

Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office noted that the change was made with support from both Republicans and Democrats on the Ethics Committee.

Mike Lillis contributed. 

This story was updated at 2:30 p.m.