In what looks increasingly like a replay of last year's GOP success at quashing ethics reform in conference, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is blocking conference proceedings to finish lobbying and ethics reform legislation this Congress.

An earlier delay tactic by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ended right before the July 4th recess, only to be picked up again by DeMint. The senator has placed a hold on appointment of the conferees, claiming he merely wants the Senate to act now to approve a rules change on earmark reform rather than waiting for the final legislation. DeMint justifies this obstructionist tactic against the legislation out of a stated concern that the conference could dilute the earmark disclosure provision.

This is horse pucky.

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The earmarking provision in the senate bill (S. 1) --which DeMint sponsored --provides excellent sunshine reforms to the current dark and dirty earmarking process. Public Citizen strongly supports those reforms.

So, too, does the senate --which approved the DeMint earmarking amendment by a vote of 98-to-0. The House has passed comparable earmarking reforms. This is not an issue likely to face resistance in conference.

Let's be honest here: DeMint is not holding out for earmark reform. As we pointed out in our letter this week, DeMint is blocking final passage of comprehensive lobbying and ethics reform. The Republican 109th Congress got a black eye for failing to pass these reforms last year. The Democratic 110th Congress could get a nasty shiner of its own if DeMint's tactics prevent action on the legislation this year.