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So these are measures, I think, that you have a golden opportunity to come forth with to make us a better respected Congress and to serve the people of our Nation.
[The statement of Mr. Hutto is printed in the Appendix.]
Mr. DREIER. Mr. Hutto, you in a short period of time have covered a wider range of issues than almost anyone who has testified before us; and those are very helpful recommendations, and I can assure you that they will all be considered here.
Mr. Spratt? Ms. Dunn?
Ms. DUNN. I thank you very much. I think you have touched on some really important topics, and I won't ask a question this time; I would just ask, Mr. Dreier, if I could enter into the testimony a statement by one of our freshman representatives, Mac Collins, who isn't able to be here today.
[The statement of Mr. Collins is printed in the Appendix.] Mr. DREIER. Thank you very much, Mr. Hutto. Mr. Shaw.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. E. CLAY SHAW, A U.S.
REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA Mr. SHAW. Mr. Dreier, I want to first make note of the fact that, as a Republican, that it is indeed a privilege for me to appear before a body in this Congress with a Republican Chairman, though it be only temporarily while Mr. Hamilton is out of the room. I hope that the—I hope that the bipartisan spirit will be carried forward in this committee's recommendation. It is certainly a very good start.
Mr. Republican Chairman, I do have a prepared statement that I would like to ask to be made a part of the record, and I will briefly summarize it.
Mr. DREIER. Without objection,
Mr. SHAW. I think John Porter and I must have had the same thoughts as to both of the subjects which I am going to approach, even though my approach is somewhat different. Mr. Porter started talking about rotation of Chairmen and Ranking Members of various committees. I think what we should have is a rotation of all the Members as to how long anybody can serve on a committee, not only as a Chair, Ranking Member, but also a Member of that committee.
I must say that my enthusiasm is not quite as keen as it was before I got on the Ways and Means Committee; however, I still recognize that the problem within the Congress that the people are actually complaining about when they start talking about this eight-is-enough is the entrenched status that people have on the various committees of Congress. I think this would make it a more dynamic body. It would rotate the Members; it would also give us an opportunity to clean up some old legislation that is sort of a holdover on the books and give every Member a chance to be more well rounded as being able to serve on the various committees.
One of the big problems we have with spending on the Congress is that people get on the committees that tend to get them reelected, which also encourages them to spend, many times in a wasteful manner, as to the conduct of that committee.
Ms. Dunn, you brought up a very excellent point as to entrenched staff. Every Chairman does take a look at the staff; every Ranking Member takes a look at his staff, and certainly can hire and fire as he pleases. However, if this is a—if this is a concern, we can also very easily require staff to also rotate off of committees, which would certainly do away with any objections that anybody would have in that area.
The next area that I want to speak on is also one that Mr. Porter spoke on and that is regarding the various coalitions that have been put together in the Congress as various caucuses, whether the caucus be limited to Members geographically by section, by race, or whether it-whether it be by industry or various concerns that caucuses are formed has to deal with.
One of the things that I think is not readily known by the Members of Congress is that these caucuses are not audited. They really for all practical purposes do not answer to anybody, yet they take official funds which amounts to taxpayers' dollars.
I think it is absolutely vital that if we continue the caucus process within the Congress, that any caucus receiving official expenditures from any congressional office make itself subject to regular audit, and that these audits be made public. I think this is absolutely, absolutely essential, and just simply makes good sense.
I say that with two credentials. I am a certified public accountant, as well as co-chairing the Sun Belt Caucus. We on the Sun Belt Caucus asked to be audited and were audited. I felt it was just being responsible as the co-chair of that organization to be sure that we had complete disclosure, and that we were subjected to the audit and the scrutiny of the auditor's work.
That concludes my comments.
Mr. DREIER. Thank you very much, Mr. Shaw. This issue of reform of legislative service organizations is clearly a good one, and your recommendations are very helpful, and we appreciate it.
Mr. Spratt? Ms. Dunn?
Mr. DREIER. And Mr. Bacchus, if you want to come forward and join Mr. Hefley and Mr. McCurdy.
Mr. Hefley, please proceed.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. JOEL HEFLEY, A U.S.
REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE STATE OF COLORADO Mr. HEFLEY. Thank you, Chairman Dreier, and than the stalwarts that are here at the committee. I always feel sorry for the people that come and testify before us from all over the country, and they have prepared their testimony at great lengths, and there are one or two or three committee Members there. And this committee is no different, because we have so much to do around here that you just can't do everything. I think maybe that is one of the reforms that I hope you will look at, and Mr. Hutto mentioned that.
And I am not—they always come and dump the whole load on us, and I am not going to dump the whole load on you. I will put it in the record and hope that you take a look at it.
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I think you are involved in the most important thing that is being done in Congress this year, and that is a reform of Congress, because I don't have to tell you—you have just gone through an election, as I have the disdain that is out there among the American public about Members of Congress.
I had a friend tell me one time he said, you know, being a Congressman was the dream of my life. He said, the pay isn't all that great, the schedule the terrible, you are torn apart from your family, you are leaving your family half the time here or there, de pending on the choice that you make; but, he said, you do get respect for the job.
What has happened to that respect? And that is not good for the American system of government for the people to lose confidence and respect in our system of government, and we have got to try to restore that. And you are the key to that now, the recommendations that you have come out with. I hope they will be tough, hardnosed recommendations to make this place operate like we would all like it to, and to restore the confidence of the American people in Congress.
They always say, Joel, you are a good one, but there aren't many of you up there. Well, my answer is, yes, there are. There are an awful lot of good ones up there that are trying to do what is right in their vision of the American scene. I am not unique in that at all. There are a lot of people up there doing that.
But somehow we are not conveying that, because the system eats us all alive up here, and it is the system that we need to change. And you know, we have had a one-party dictatorship here in the Congress for 40 years. There aren't many countries in the world with that–North Korea, Cuba, Mexico, not very many other governments that are one-party dictatorship. And while it is not like some of those dictatorships, there are corruptions that come in whether that one party be a Democratic Party or a Republican Party, there are those corruptions that come in to keep the Minority in tow, to make sure that they don't have any effective input. And I hope that you will look at those corruptions and try to change that.
We need, every one of the 435 Members of Congress, to be a player in the process, and it is not just the Minority Members that aren't effective players in the process many times; it is the junior Members that aren't effective players in the process, Members that aren't Chairmen of key committees and so forth. The power is concentrated, very definitely, in this body, and I would hope that you would look to that aspect of it.
There is an arrogance of power around here that, you know the saying, that the Minority Member's job in Congress is to show up to make a quorum and to collect his pay. And that is not right. I represent 600,000 people, as you all do, and we ought to all be players in the process.
Just to hit on two or three things that I think are very important. I think the proxy voting thing, the American people, when that is mentioned, you just—they simply cannot understand your not being present and yet being recorded as voting. And I know, I have raised this issue in both the Armed Services and Small Business Committees in the last week, and the explanations for why, oh, we must have this, or we just can't function around here, is simply not true.
I don't give my proxy to my Ranking Member. If I am not there, I don't want to be recorded as voting, and it works. And I don't get any guff, because I—and I can't be everywhere, just like you can't. But do something about the proxy voting.
The joint referrals, that has already been mentioned at some length, and mostly done I think to kill and bury bills, or to make sure you don't offend somebody about their territory. That desperately needs to be changed.
Limiting terms, I am not a big fan of term limits for congressmen. I am only going to be a congressmen a small period of my life, and when I am not a congressman, I don't want anyone telling me who I can vote for to represent me. So I am not a big fan of the term limits, like you and I have from our States, but I am in favor of term limits on committees.
I am on the Armed Services Committee, and it is important for me from Colorado Springs to be on the Armed Services Committee; but at the same time, I suppose they would survive if I wasn't on the Armed Services Committee, and if I had to rotate off of that. And the previous Speakers have talked about that, but that is something I hope that you will look into.
And then, finally, the last point I would mention is the practice of exempting ourselves from the laws that we put on everybody else. Last night was a perfect, tragic example. We are putting on the American people with the parental leave bill, we are putting on them a tremendous burden out there. If you look at that bill in its detail—not the concept, which sounds like a good concept, but look at it in its detail and what that is going to require; and obviously we in Congress voted overwhelmingly last night that, yes, that is good for the American public, that is good for business out there. But that is not good for Congress, because we turned that down. Now, we have got to stop doing that if we are to restore confidence.
This is another thing that enrages the American public, that we exempt ourselves from things that they have to comply with.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I will stop and thank you for your time.
[The statement of Mr. Hefley is printed in the Appendix.]
Mr. DREIER. Thank you very much, Mr. Hefley. You have done an excellent job certainly of venting your frustrations, the frustration of a Minority Member.
Mr. HEFLEY. I thought I was very friendly.
Mr. DREIER. Well, you are obviously friendly and frustrated. Let me just say that your point on proxy voting is very well received from my perspective, and it seems to me that if we are going to deal with the question of proxy voting, hand in hand with that we will see a reduction in the number of committees on which Members serve; because if they have to show up and have to participate in the committee process, it is apparent that they will be forced to give up some of the committees on which they serve. So I hope that we will be able to see that kind of reduction.
I thank you for your testimony.
Mr. DUNN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I enjoyed your testimony very much, Mr. Hefley, and I just wanted to go back to your initial comments, and you commented about how there was a lot of respect, not much good pay, but good respect for Members of Congress.
It occurs to me, it is going in the wrong direction. The pay is better, but the respect level has decreased; and that is really why we are here. I think those of us who want to enhance the reputation of this body are Members who are very concerned about change, and substantive change; and that is my hope for this committee, that we are going to be able to listen to what you have to say, and in a bipartisan way, be able to make substantive changes, so we don't need just another good PR program on why the Members of Congress are great guys and women, but we can go back to our constituents and say, we listened to what you have been saying the last few years, and we are in fact going to take some substantive steps on some of the very issues that you just mentioned to us.
Mr. HEFLEY. I hope that is exactly what is done. By "substantive,” we don't mean things like raising the cost of haircuts and the gym fees. That may be fine. But we need substantive change in the system up here if we are to restore that confidence. Thank you.
Mr. DREIER. Thank you very much, Mr. Hefley. It was very helpful.
STATEMENT OF THE HON, JIM BACCHUS, A U.S.
REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA Mr. BACCHUS. Thank you, Mr. Dreier. Mr. Chairman and Members of the committee, I appreciate the opportunity to come before you today and discuss the important, the urgent issue of congressional reform.
I am proud to have been an original cosponsor of the HamiltonGradison resolution, and I believe that my class that was elected in 1990 played a pivotal role in making certain that that resolution passed and that this reform effort became a reality.
I believe that the work of this committee is critical to restoring public confidence in the Congress and making the Congress truly more responsive to the needs and realities of America. The Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress will allow us to take a bipartisan, deliberative approach to streamlining and modernizing our committee structure and improving the work of the Federal Government as a whole.
Mr. Chairman, this is the way to seek real reform, not by demagoguery, not through sound bites, but with hard, deliberative fundamental work toward building a consensus on how best we can reinvigorate this timeless institution to meet the needs of our time. I fully support the reforms that many have discussed that are so desperately needed in this body.
For example, I agree with my preceding colleague that we need to impose the same rules on ourselves that we apply on others. And I am a cosponsor of that effort and others to achieve reform.