« PreviousContinue »
for them, we shouldn't have them offered free. The same way with services here on the Hill.
Madam Chairman, these are sort of heretical to say, but I do think Member services ought to be limited to one or maybe no more than two committees.
I think we ought to have a very strict limit on subcommittees. This would get over the problems we have with proxy voting. I don't think proxy voting is correct. It is necessary now because we are stretched out so much. But I think if we had fewer committees and those were made by your adjustment, each into a major committee an important committee dealing with serious, substantive issues then I think probably we could move forward.
Floor deliberations and scheduling, I think it could be an experiment of a 5-day workweek and a 3-day workweek, alternating in some combinations so that we have time home and time here.
I would like to see some experiment in a 2-year budgeting process. The State of Kentucky has a 2-year budget. I realize the problems, but if we could do that over a 2-year period and not have to go through this wrangling incessantly every year, every year, every year, maybe somehow we could work the authorizing and the appropriating somehow into a package so that we could overcome the need to sequentially get to all of that.
Let me just once again go back to what I said at the start. These ideas are not going to be new to you. There is nothing that we can suggest that is new and different. The only thing that we can hope to do is to offer you our support when the tough decisions have to be made. So that is where I stand in readiness to help you. Not so much to give you ideas; you have those. You will be able to get them from people wiser than I am. But you will need our help to pass the bill, and that is what I offer.
I thank you very much and wish you and your panel the very best of good luck.
MS. NORTON. Thank you very much, Mr. Mazzoli. Mr. Allard, have you any questions?
Mr. ALLARD. Yes, I have a couple of questions, at least one that I would like to put to you. Yesterday we had some legislation on the Floor called the Family Medical Leave bill, and in that legislation, in effect, we had an exemption for Congress. I mean, we treated the employees of this chamber and the Congress differently than those in the private sector, even local government. And I wish you would respond to that, please.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Right. Well, I would prefer it be otherwise. I support the Majority, I support my party leadership in its views on the bill, but I would have preferred a different bill in that sense. I really-and I supported Congressman Petri in some of the efforts that he has made over the years in trying to make sure that everything we do here, that we say is wonderful and excellent and beneficial for the American people and for the American business people, I think should be applied to us. When we don't do it that way, then we look hypocritical.
Even though we can make the distinctions, there are many distinctions we can make, and legitimately make, because of the branches of government and because of the history and tradition of this place; and they are all very seamless and they are very com
pelling. But they don't make really a compelling or seamless case to the American people. They say it looks like we are treating ourselves as potentates or kings or queens or something and not as average people. So I think that we ought to make a very devoted effort to make sure that anything we do is equally affective to all of our activities in this office or to us as people.
Mr. ALLARD. I don't think that is a new concept. You know, James Madison had a concern about Congress exempting itself from the laws, and this concern was that we would set ourselves up as the lead body.
Also you talked about parking at the airport. You say that we ought to pay. Are you saying that we pay for that personally, or do we pay for those out of our congressional staff dollars? What would be appropriate?
Mr. Mazzoli. Well, I think it ought to be a personal thing. If we want to use the airport, I think it ought to come out of our personal pocket. I would probably still use it if it was reasonable. If not, I would try to find some way else to get out to the airport. But I think having nearby parking is very defensible and I think it is appropriate, because we do need to make-I don't go to Colorado; of course, you all may have different flight schedules. You may go out to Dulles or something, but to National, that quick hop out to National becomes a part of our lives around here.
But the idea of paying a reasonable fee for it, I think is appropriate.
Mr. ALLARD. But that may be, even if we are on official business-you know, it is part of your official function to go to a meeting?
Mr. Mazzoli. Well, however you might do it, it seems to me that some fee ought to come. I mean, even if it is reimbursement to the House itself, it possibly could be some sort of revolving fund. But I think the idea that people don't see us getting something that they have to pay for and we get it free, or "free" in quotations, and I think that is the-however you decide to do it, then I think that that would be a step in the right direction.
Mr. ALLARD. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Madam Chair, just again, I would say that you have a really historic opportunity in this committee to do something that is important for all of us and important for the country, and I really wish you well; and I think you will find a lot of us certainly anxious to support you. Thank you all very much.
MS. NORTON. Thank you, Mr. Mazzoli. That is very encouraging. Our next panel consists of six Members of Congress. I am pleased to welcome Mr. Boehner, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Santorum, Mr. Doolittle, Mr. Klug and Mr. Nussle-I believe all of my class-so I especially welcome this panel. You may speak in whatever order you desire, and we have for your collective testimony about 25 or 30 minutes.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. SCOTT L. KLUG, A U.S.
Mr. KLUG. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. Jim Nussle should be joining us shortly, I think.
I would like to thank you and our freshman colleague or former freshman colleague, Mr. Allard, for the opportunity to testify today. I suspect what was known as the gang of seven was not very high on the Washington dinner invitations list last year, and I know for a fact that in some circles in the Capitol we were strictly personae non grata.
Last year the seven of us, as freshman, realized we could no longer remain silent on the House bank scandal. We tried to express our concerns about the coverup to the leadership, and frankly, the long-range implications of such a strategy, but we were brushed off at that point as troublemaking freshmen.
With no other alternative, we decided instead to take our case to the public, and while we could not convince the leadership to close the House bank and make the records public, eventually the American people made sure that Congress came clean.
While some people then and certainly some people still today may not have approved of our bomb-throwing tactics, our intent then and, frankly, our intent now is the same as this committee's: To make this institution again a place of which we can all be proud.
Today the six of us, working very quietly again-this time again within the system-are coming here to lay out a series of proposals on how to make Congress more effective and less ostentatious. Frank Riggs, our former colleague, now in California, couldn't be with us today, but I can tell you that he fully supports the statements you are going to hear from myself and my other colleagues. I spoke to a group of third and fourth graders in Wisconsin last week and one 10-year-old child raised his hand and asked a question, and said, Congressman, do you have a limousine outside and can I have a ride in it? Well, needless to say, I didn't have one. In fact, at the time, we were driving an old, beat-up Buick belonging to a staffer. But the question says a lot about our reputation in the eyes of America, and especially the kind of question that a third or fourth grader thinks they need to ask me, and I think tells what a lot of people in the Midwest think about how our government works. And I suspect it is the same way people in the other parts of the country think we do business.
Today we are going to give you a series of detailed suggestions on some important changes on two fronts. To make it easier to pass legislation, we have a series of proposals on how to overhaul the committee structure and the rules of the House, and to guarantee the absence of limousine questions in the future when we are out at grade schools across the country, we are going to make some suggestions on the need for us to cut waste and fraud and abuses right here in Congress's own operations.
Before I turn it over to my colleagues, who have the more specific proposals, one plea from me: Hillary Clinton, as you know, is now in charge of the President's Task Force on Health Care, and she will soon be staring at a series of graphs in which health care costs soar into the stratosphere. But if you plot expenses and staff here in the House, chances are our graphs won't look all that different. Between 1960 and 1993, the number of lawmakers here in Congress has remained exactly the same, but the congressional staff has grown three times in size.
Imagine that in 1960 it cost $131 million to fund the entire legislative branch, and today it costs $2.3 billion. That is an increase of 1,700 percent, for an absolutely staggering average of 52 percent a year for the past three decades.
At a time when IBM and Sears and Kodak, and back in my home State of Wisconsin, SSI, the foremost super computer company in the world, are laying off people by the hundreds and the thousands, there is no way you can convince me that Congress shouldn't be doing the exact same thing.
If, by some reason, like Dracula, the select committees rise from the dead in the weeks ahead, I urge this body to firmly plant the stake in their collective heart; and I will gladly provide the lumber, the holy water, the garlic and the hard work to get the job done, if you need to get it done that way.
And now for the first of more concrete proposals, let me introduce my colleague, John Boehner from Ohio, on the need for more accountability in the House of Representatives.
Thanks for the opportunity to testify.
[The statement of Mr. Klug is printed in the Appendix.]
STATEMENT OF THE HON. JOHN A. BOEHNER, A U.S.
Mr. BOEHNER. Madam Chairwoman, thank you for being here today and helping to sponsor these hearings and allowing Members of the House to make their suggestions about what we can do to improve this House.
To remind many people who are not our fans here in Congress and around town, a lot of the efforts that I and, frankly, those of you that are on the panel today, a lot of our efforts started in a very bipartisan way 2 years ago, when it was bringing all 47 Members of our class together in support of what was then an effort to ratify the 27th Amendment-which we were also successful inwhen it was most of the Members of our class coming together to support the balanced budget amendment. And certainly every Member of our class came together in support of the creation of the committee in which we are now testifying.
There have been a lot of bipartisan achievements, and unfortunately, over this last year, a lot of our efforts have gotten into more partisan areas. We sit here today and promise to you that we want to continue to move back and do this reform in a bipartisan way and to be a positive force for a change in this Congress.
With regard to what I will describe as "accountability issues," let me say that, as Scott mentioned, a lot of people in America believe that Congress have put themselves up on a little pedestal, a pedestal of arrogance. That is the perception. Many of us know that that is not the reality, but that is the perception. But we can change that perception, and I would like to talk a little bit about how to do that.
First, living under the same laws that we expect all other Americans to live under is something that was described in testimony just before us. Certainly, we can no longer hide behind the issue of the separation of powers clause in the Constitution with regard to allowing our employees to have the right of remedy in the court
system. I understand clearly that we don't want to allow the executive branch of government to enforce those laws on the Congress. Having the mechanism in house to meet those requirements is important, but allowing our employees or disallowing them a right of action to go to court to make sure that they have the same protections, I think is hiding behind that separation of powers clause in the Constitution.
Some of these labor laws, primarily like OSHA, apply to us not in any, way, shape or form; and Congress has one of the worst worker safety records of any part of the public sector safety records around the country.
Second, I would point out under the Freedom of Information Act, almost everything in the executive branch is open for review by the press, by our constituents, but certainly not here in Congress. And I think that our constituents and the press have a right to know what goes on and that the Congress should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act, as is the executive branch.
Third, the congressional frank. We all know what the congressional frank is the free mailing privileges that Members of Congress have, and a lot of us know what most of that money is used for. It is to get Members of Congress reelected. To my way of thinking, it is the greatest incumbent protection tool there is. On average, Members of Congress spend about $150,000 per year—that is $300,000 over a 2-year cycle-sending mail into their districts at taxpayer expense; and I think it has to be brought under control. The issue of allowing Members of Congress to have voter lists in their offices needs to be curtailed.
Fourth, we ought to have an open and independent audit of the Congress. Information ought to be presented in a usable form for the press and for the public to see how Congress really spends its money. We ought to require recorded votes on issues where we are raising taxes. I think that Congress ought to have a vote every session setting the pace for the next session of Congress.
Campaign reform; we ought to have serious campaign reform, not Republicans trying to do it to Democrats and Democrats trying to do it to Republicans. I think what we want to do is take away some of the overwhelming advantages of incumbency and to give challengers at least a fair shot at winning the election.
Lastly, let me point out that we have made some efforts in cleaning up some of the internal operations of the Congress, and the House Administration Committee continues to look at those areas. But we ought to look seriously at really ending the patronage system here in Congress, and we really ought to go-proceed in a forthright way to straighten out the other problems that we have internally.
Let me finish by saying that the Speaker of the House many years ago, Sam Rayburn, was fond of saying that any jackass can kick down a barn door, but only a carpenter can build one. Our mission is to try to create a United States Congress that the American people have confidence in and respect for. And it is for that mission that we are here today, and it is also with regard to that mission that we pledge to help you and to support you in your efforts and your recommendations that we hope are made this year. Thank you.