Legislation aimed at easing restrictions in a new ethics code for government official has run into trouble in the House because it does not go far enough.
The bill came up for debate late Wednesday, but when unexpected opposition developed, House leaders pulled it off the floor.
Various government officials have complained that the new ethics code is so stringent that they may quit their jobs before it takes effect in July. Scientists, educators and some lawyers have argued that, under the new law, they could not return to jobs they held before going to work for the government.
A leadership aide said the bill that was on the floor "took car of the lawyers, but it didn't do much to help scientists and educators."
Rep. George E. Danielson (D-Calif.), chief sponsor of the changes, said he would try to work out an amendment that "would alleviate some of the concern."
One provision in question would prevent any high-ranking official from having any contact with his former agency for one year, under penalty of $10,000 fine or imprisonment for up to two years or both.
Another provision would prevent high officials from advising or assisting in any representation before their former agency for two years.
The bill, already passed by the Senate, has a change in the latter provision to allow advising or assisting, but not a personal presence or appearance at the agency on any matter in which the official was personally and substantially involved.
However, it did not change the provision preventing any contact with the agency for one year. And when the bill was brought to the floor, any amendment to that provision was ruled not germane.
Rep. William D. Ford (D-Mich.) said that Hale Champion, assistant secretary at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, was resigning, and said several high officials in education "will either have to leave federal service July 1 . . . or these experts face the probability that when they do leave federal service after July 1 they will have to go and pump gas or do something else for one year before they can return to their college or university.
"The reason for this is if they return to their college or university and they send a memo to a department head to make an application for a federal grant . . . they will be guilty of a felony."
Rep. Mike McCormack (D-Wash.) said scientists associated with the Defense Department, Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation were also "not being adequately taken care of."
Danielson said he would try to fashion an amendment by Tuesday to exempt from the one-year, no-contact provision "those who don't have any impact," such as technical people.
But, he added, "I don't know whether I can do it."
He blamed the bill's difficulties on misunderstanding and that "this whole ethics law is so dammed unpopular. They lost sight of the changes we did make." Danielson also said that the bill came to the floor on the day that members were required, under another session, to make public their financial statements. "It's like getting a bill on the day your taxes are due," Danielson said. He added, "They were more angry when they found they couldn't offer their pet amendments."
But Danielson was adamant that the one-year no-contact provisions should not be scrapped totally.
Majority Whip John Brademans (D-Ind.) said, "In trying to writ a law to take care of generals who go from the Pentagon to the aerospace or defense industry we shot down educators and scientists going back to their former careers."
Brademans said a way was being sought "to amend what we had done."