« PreviousContinue »
Again, I think also the perception that not only in terms of the regulatory burdens like those we pass on small business, but also fairness to individuals, as Mr. Mann said, that we are sometimes very, very arbitrary in the way we conduct ourselves as compared with others.
Mr. SWETT. If I may take a small moment, a good example I would like to share has to do not only with the fairness issue, but we seem to have cultivated in this country's regulatory environment where the government almost has an arrogance about it in its attitude towards the peoples' ability to be responsible for their own actions. I think a great gulf has occurred between people in government and come about because of this arrogance.
This certainly forces us to look at how we possibly might bridge that gap or how we might shorten that gulf. I think that certainly legislation of this type would go a long way to accomplishing that. Mr. SHAYS. I second that.
Chairman BOREN. What we really are dealing with fundamentally in the work of this committee is to restore and repair that fragile fabric of trust that exists and should exist between the people and their government and the sense that it is their own government.
I think nothing hurts me more than to sense the alienation that people feel from their government, from their Congress, that should belong to them and should be viewed by them as ours, our voice, our chance to have a part in the process of making law and policy for the country. I think so often they feel there is a huge gap there, that it doesn't belong to them anywhere.
The way we finance campaigns makes them wonder if they count. The way we do business or don't do business up here, the way it is hard to even find out who can be held accountable when a decision is made; and certainly not applying the rules and regulations that we impose upon them upon ourselves. It is as if there is a privileged segment of society here that is treating itself differently than others.
We are not meant to be rulers. We are meant to be public servants. I think all of these things contribute to that feeling that that kind of relationship has broken down.
You know, it does something-it does terrible damage to the whole society if that relationship of trust and of participation between people in government breaks down.
So I think you are all talking about something that is very, very important. I am sorry more of our colleagues are not sure.
I assure you it is not a lack of interest and that the proposal you made, we heard from some of our colleagues on the Senate side as well, this theme-Senator Grassley particularly emphasized this point in his testimony.
We will do our best to take action and we have, as you can see by both the chairing and the membership of this committee and, in fact, we don't even sit-the House Members together, the Senators together, Democrats, Republicans together, we are not concerned with who is a freshman, who is a senior Member, anything else. This is something we must all do together.
We have to break down again some of the polarization of our institution and be open-minded and work together as a team to get this down. I appreciate the comments you all made.
Thank you very much.
I think Mr. Upton is our last witness from the State of Michigan. Congressman Upton, we appreciate your coming and your willingness to come back to us with as many witnesses as I am told— we have over 50 today. To me, that is good news. It might mean the hearing will go a little longer. It is good news.
What it says is the membership of this institution is truly interested in bringing about changes that need to be made. To me, that is an optimistic report.
We appreciate your patience and we would welcome your testimony.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. FRED UPTON, A U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
Mr. UPTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to be here this morning.
I apologize for stepping out of turn. We had a full committee markup. I was able to cast my vote without proxies, which is something you probably ought to consider, as well.
I enjoyed much of the testimony that I have heard this morning, both here as well as watching it in my office this morning on CSPAN. I do envy the position that you are in.
As I ran for Congress initially back in 1986, this is my fourth term, there are many congressional reforms that we need. Your committee this morning and the next couple of months, in fact, will provide a vehicle to make much-needed changes. I thought I might just comment on a couple of things I heard earlier this morning. One, we do need major revision as we look at commemoratives. As I talk and listen to many Members, that takes so much time. We need a commission to do that.
We don't need 440 Members now in the House having that ability which takes so much time to get 221 cosponsors. In addition, the testimony I just heard this morning, I am not actually one of the 150 cosponsors in the House trying to put the House and Senate under the same rules we passed because of one exception, that being the Privacy Act.
I happen to believe as we look to shore up the trust of our constituents, that their confidences that are so often placed in their leaders need to remain in confidence and not be open to any challenge by any individual or press or media person outside. For that reason, I am not a cosponsor of that, although I do, of course, support the OSHA and certainly the labor laws we pass on others.
The main point I wanted to talk a little bit about this morning was franking reform. When I first came to Congress, Members of Congress were able to send-at least House Members, were able to send as many as six newsletters each year. Way too many.
That is one every other month. It is now I believe at three per year. That times 270,000 households, that is a lot of mail. I think that that can be reduced to 11⁄2 a year or three per 2-year term. I think that that is very valuable.
The other thing I think we need to do, and I introduced legislation here in the House to do so, is the money that we do not spend in our own congressional budgets needs to go back to the Treasury. It doesn't need to go to Members that overspend their accounts.
We are accountable for those funds. As a fiscal conservative, I care very deeply about reducing the Federal deficit, and I try to take steps in my own office to do so. I didn't spend each of the last 2 years over $100,000 of my mail allotment budget.
I was still able to personally respond to every constituent that contacted me, do a newsletter, a questionnaire and alert people to my activities such as town meetings and such when I am back home in Michigan and still not spend $100,000.
What happened to it? I can't tell you what happened to it because it didn't go back to the Treasury. It didn't reduce Congress' own budget here. It, in fact, went to other activities of which we don't know where the money went.
I think as you look at just one Member who saved in one term at least $200,000, where is it that other Members in both the House and Senate, and that is something I think you need to focus on and bring greater accountability to this institution.
[The statement of Mr. Upton is printed in the Appendix.]
Chairman BOREN. Mr. Upton, you have given us, I think, two very good suggestions. I did not know-I don't know what the prac tice is on the Senate side, but I thought I had reached the point where I would not be surprised by things that go on here. I have to tell you I am surprised by your comment that when we save money, because I turned back money from my office account, I think nearly every year I have been here, I did not know that that did not go to reduced deficits in the budget.
I didn't know that that did not go back to the general treasury, that it was recycled and spent elsewhere. I assumed I was not encouraging someone else to not be wasteful by being frugal myself. I think that idea is excellent.
Any Member who turns back money from their office account should have the assurance that goes for deficit reduction and help with this serious problem in our country. I think that is a very good point, something I assure you will I will attempt to pursue as one individual member of this committee.
Your comment about newsletters, mass mailings, use of the frank is well taken. I will tell you my own personal experience. I think it has been about 12 years ago, long before we have taken action-and we have taken action on the Senate side to virtually stop newsletters now altogether. But I did this over 12 years ago. I also for the last several years have never done an unsolicited mass mailing. When you see these charts, I am down at the zero on the bottom on all of these things. Some of my friends came to plea and said you know, you are going to be in real trouble. This is really going to hurt you politically. You are foolish to give up these things unilaterally.
I had a fairly comfortable majority when I first came here. I gave up my newsletters. My majority went up to 76 percent. I gave up mass mailings on top of newsletters and my majority went to 83.5 percent in the last election. The amazing thing about it is I have never received one single letter from a constituent decrying the
fact they didn't get a newsletter from me or receive a mass mailing from me.
In fact, quite the contrary. I have had people who said when we read it cost $900,000 or whatever it does to send out the newsletters for a Senator statewide, we are certainly glad we don't hear from you as often in that form.
I think we underestimate the intelligence of the American people when they get these newsletters and other communications which are, in essence, us campaigning with their money. You know we ought to put a little tag line on that: "Here is piece of campaign material which you as a taxpayer generously financed."
That is what we ought to put on these newsletters with all the pictures of us getting awards and doing all the wonderful things for our constituents. That would be truth in advertising.
I think you are on the right track. I have survived to tell about the fact that when you do away with some of these things, it is appreciated. It is noticed. People understand more about what I would call gimmicks, political gimmicks than perhaps many Members of Congress think they do.
You are right as you can be. You are very correct about separating this money saved in an individual account and making sure it goes to deficit reduction. I applaud your suggestions.
As we work toward our final report, I will certainly bring both of those suggestions to the attention of all our colleagues on the Joint Committee.
Mr. UPTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman BOREN. Thank you very much for appearing.
We will stand in recess until approximately 2:00 p.m., at which time Chairman Hamilton and Vice Chairman Dreier will be chairing the afternoon.
Let me, again, express my appreciation to all of our witnesses today and again express my feeling that the fact that so many Members of Congress have wanted to testify is very reassuring to me and should be reassuring to their constituents that they want to improve this institution.
We will stand in recess until the hour of 2:00 p.m.
[Whereupon, at 1:00 p.m., the Committee recessed, to reconvene the same day at 2:00 p.m.]
Ms. NORTON [presiding.] I want to call to order the afternoon session of today's session of the Committee on the Organization of Congress. The Chairman has asked me to proceed, because we have so many witnesses and we want to get to hear all of them.
The Chairman will be in and out, and he has taken great care to read the testimony that has already been given to him and assures me that I should say to you that whatever testimony he is not here to hear, he will make a special effort to read himself, particularly considering the many excellent suggestions that have come forward, especially today, when we have heard from so many Members of Congress.
Representative Mazzoli is first this afternoon. Let me just ask that we try to adhere to the 5-minute rule.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. ROMANO L. MAZZOLI, A U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY
Mr. MAZZOLI. Thank you. Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and I surely will adhere to that. Let me thank you for working me in. I had been scheduled earlier today, but ran into a conflict; and I ask permission to make my testimony a part of the record.
Let me just lay the groundwork, Madam Chair, by saying that there is nothing new under the sun under the subject of campaign reform or subject of reform of Hill activities. You have already studied the work product of many study groups. So it is your task, I guess, to look through all of those, along with what we might proffer, and just sort of make a selection. But what formed the committee, caused the committee to be formed, was of course the idea that it is going to take strong leadership on your part and your colleagues' part to really pull this off and get this done.
And I am reminded that somewhere last year, I think our Majority Leader, Dick Gephardt, said in relation to another issue, that before we are able to solve it, we will have to break some glass, which was sort of an interesting, colorful way of saying we will have to make some tough decisions and there will have to be some sharp decisions that will be made. So I commend you to that, and I hope that the package that you come forth with is a very difficult package, hard to accept, that does put burrs under saddles and does break down playhouses that have been built up and does destroy fiefdoms that have been created over the years right here on Capitol Hill. Because quite frankly, Madam Chair, if your recommendations come in too easy to accept and too generally able to approve, I think they may not be tough enough, so I think your task is to make them tough and show the Congress and the public that they are important.
Just very quickly, I think that campaign finance reform should be somehow woven into the package or as an ancillary part of the package, because as I mentioned to the President this morning at the meeting with the wood board organization, I think campaign finance reform undergirds anything he would have a chance to do in his 4 years as President or 8 years as President, and I say the same about anything we do here on Capitol Hill.
I very much support the idea of making sure all laws affect us, Members of Congress, and congressional activities, and not exempt, as we have over the years with OSHA and so forth.
Franking reforms are very necessary, because the people don't understand how the frank operates. We all know that it is important to communicate, but obviously, the Roll Call piece which showed the tremendous outpouring of mail just before elections does tend to tell the American people that that the frank is not always used just for communication, it is used in connection with selling ourselves at junctures in our career; and I think that that has to be dealt with.
I think that services, many of which we receive, are important, all of which we receive should be fairly paid for. I would put parking out at National Airport in the category of very useful services that we have to have to make our connections, but we should pay