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Ms. NORTON. Thank you very much, Mr. Boehner.
[The statement of Mr. Boehner is printed in the Appendix.]
MS. NORTON. I think we can still get through much of this before
STATEMENT OF THE HON. CHARLES H. TAYLOR, A U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
Mr. TAYLOR. Madam Chairman, I would first like to thank the Members of the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress for affording me this opportunity to testify today, and would also like to thank the fellow Members of the Gang of Seven who invested so much time in developing meaningful reforms that will help us change the people's perception of Congress from a house of perks to the people's house, once again.
I would like to focus my remarks today on the need for Congress to lead by example as we focus on ways to reduce the $4 trillion national debt. The Members of the Gang of Seven have dispersed throughout Congress and various committees. I am on the Appropriations Committee this year-the Legislative Branch Subcommittee, to be specific-and we have just spent two weeks hearing requests from that branch. I sincerely believe that unless both Congress and the administration work to cut their budgets, then other parts of the Federal budget will be almost impossible to cut without our setting that type of example. We must gain credibility by making substantial cuts in our budget if we plan to be able to lead through the rest of this session reducing the budget deficit that is before us.
As Ross Perot told the people last fall in the campaign, there is plenty of grass out there to cut, but no one wants to get near a lawn mower; and that is what I found in the subcommittee. It became apparent that there were considerable needs, but there is not as much interest in cutting because almost everyone has a vested interest in some part of a program in the legislative branch. I listened during the last two weeks to the testimony from a parade of congressional officials and bureaucrats. It is clear that there are a disturbing number of offices and committees with overlapping responsibility. Through consolidation, reorganization, and in many cases, elimination, Congress can make significant savings, perhaps in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, that will not balance the budget, but it is an important precedent that must be set if we make substantial cuts in other areas.
In last week's hearings, I learned that Congress employs more lawyers than I ever believed existed. We have the office of general counsel for Congress, the office of legislative counsel for Congress, the law revision counsel for Congress, the Ethics Committee counsel for Congress, and I could go on and take the rest of the time just going over the list of lawyers; and that does not count the hundreds of counsel for both House and Senate committees and subcommittees.
By forming a pool of attorneys that serve a number of subcommittees, committees and organizations, we could eliminate many high-paying legal positions to start with. Now, I know the thought of turning all those lawyers loose on the public, unsuspecting
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public here, is a frightening thought, but we cannot afford this level of government at this time.
Offices with overlapping and duplicative responsibilities regarding tax and economic policy include the Joint Economic Committee with its 51 staffers; the Joint Committee on Taxation, with its 77 staffers; the Congressional Budget Office and its 266 employees, who only want a 15 percent raise this year; and the Office of Technical Assessment, its 210 congressional researchers, the General Accounting Office with its 5,000 employees; the Congressional Research Service with over 800 employees; and I could go on and on, not to mention the overlapping that we now have with administrative boards and agencies.
Many of these organizations do exactly the same thing. They do it with a little different flare; they have individual constituencies, and they serve a purpose mainly as well as I determine by being able to communicate with specific Members better than perhaps another organization might be.
In an ideal world with unlimited funds, Congress and the American taxpayer could afford the luxury of having offices performing much of the same work. But I propose eliminating the Congressional Budget Office, which has largely outlived its usefulness, formed in 1974 when it was generally thought that the Democrats would not gain the presidency other than at the point of a gun. We now see that that has happened, and there is really no reason why we cannot work with the Office of Management and Budget and many of the other independent agencies in providing the needed congressional information to effect a meaningful budget.
I also propose that Congress reorganize and drastically reduce the size of the 5,000 employees at GAO and that we consolidate the staffs of many of the other committees, if not eliminate them altogether. By enacting these reforms, Congress can significantly reduce both its budget and the size of its 38,000 employee work force, while continuing to perform its constitutional function.
We, the Members of Congress, must make sacrifices and tighten our own belts. The American people expect and deserve no less. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
MS. NORTON. Thank you, Mr. Taylor.
[The statement of Mr. Taylor is printed in the Appendix.]
STATEMENT OF THE HON. JOHN T. DOOLITTLE, A U.S.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Thank you, Madam Chairman. I know the time is short and I will try and sum up my remarks. I think you have a copy of them.
I appreciate this opportunity to address the committee. We sit here in the halls of the seat of government of the greatest republic in the history of the world. We have more government today, however, than I think at any time in our history, and really less to show for it in terms of a sense of well-being by our own people. We are, I believe, in danger of becoming irrelevant.
The House of Representatives was once a great body. I understand the function of this committee is to attempt to revitalize that
body. And I want to be part of that effort. I think it is terribly important that we succeed in that.
When I got here, I was quite impressed by how the House operated-I guess impressed in the sense of surprised, because really in comparison to the State legislature I was familiar with or, I would venture, basically any State legislature, it did not compare favorably. We had a deliberative body in my legislature. We were compelled by law to be present when that body was in session, all of us, to hear the debate and to act on the issues.
I just came from the chamber and the scene there is very typical of what you normally see. There were maybe 20 people on the Floor of the House of Representatives debating the motor-voter bill. This august panel, I think, has a membership of at least a dozen and we have one Member or two Members here, and I saw a third poke his head in. That is not to criticize this panel, because I could show you my schedule today, and I have been missing committee meetings all day. I am late for appointments.
I have got someone probably right here behind me, if they made it into this room, that had a 2:00 p.m. appointment; and that is the way it goes every single day around here. We are just doing what we can to make ends meet, but we have lost the sense of deliberation in the House of Representatives. We need to get it back.
I offer to you a couple of suggestions as to how we do that. I think it is very dismaying to see the number of closed and restricted rules that are being granted today. If you go back to the 97th Congress spanning the years 1981 through 1982, 90 percent of the rules issued by the Rules Committee were open rules. Today, or at least in the 102d Congress for which we now have the figures, 34 percent of the rules were open rules. We shouldn't be afraid of controversy. That is the nature of a deliberative assembly, to debate before our people these important issues.
Now, of course, the majority will always prevail, as it was designed to be. But we at least ought to have the opportunity to offer amendments on behalf of our constituencies.
I represented a constituency that was destined to have a Federal project built right there in my district. I appeared before the Rules Committee to offer-to ask permission to offer an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act, and I was denied permission. A Member of the Majority Party, however, was granted permission to offer an amendment to build a dam in my district. That, to me, is merely one small example of the abuse of process in the House of Representatives.
The body of parliamentary law that almost all Americans are familiar with is Robert's Rules of Order, based originally on the rules of the House of Representatives. Someone today looking at the House of Representatives would scarcely realize that there was any antecedent to what had once been. We do not have free and open debate anymore in the House; we do not have a deliberative assembly.
We ought to consider seriously requiring Members to be present for the debate and setting aside special times when the committees meet. I would like to see proxy voting banned in committees, and at the same time, I would like to see committees and subcommittees meeting at the same time, to have that prohibited. The two go
hand in hand. You cannot have Members sitting on subcommittees meeting simultaneously and ban proxy voting. You have to do both, and we should do both.
We should have the situation created so that all Members of this panel could be here to hear the testimony. This is an extraordinary event, not just us being here, but the extraordinary event of having such a panel and having witnesses testify. You should be able to hear it. And, instead, I would submit, Madam Chairman, it is frequently the case in our committees that we have scant membership because we are all strewn to the four winds, doing other things at competing endeavors.
So let me close with this thought offered by Victor Hugo. People do not lack strength, they lack will. We have all the power necessary to change this situation. It is simply up to us to do it. Thank
[The statement of Mr. Doolittle is printed in the Appendix.]
Mr. ALLARD. Madam Chairman, I would ask the Chair that we be allowed to go vote. I hate to see the last of this group's testimony cut short, and I would like to have them have the full benefit of this committee's time, if that is OK with the Chair.
Ms. NORTON. I think that is a good suggestion, because then we could ask some questions, and the Chairman will be here after the vote.
[Whereupon, at 2:35 p.m., the Joint Committee recessed, to reconvene following a vote on the Floor.]
Mr. DREIER [presiding.] Well, the committee will come to order, and, gentlemen, it is nice to see you, and I should say to my five Republican colleagues, it is an honor to sit as Vice Chairman of this committee before you.
I understand that some of you have testified, all except for Mr. Santorum and Mr. Nussle. Please, go right ahead.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. JIM NUSSLE, A U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE STATE OF IOWA
Mr. NUSSLE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. If your chairmanship is any indication of congressional reform, I am looking forward to it. Mr. DREIER. It is a start.
Mr. NUSSLE. It is a good start. I would like to make a couple of opening comments. I want to thank you for affording me and my colleagues the opportunity to share our thoughts about the operation of Congress.
I want to begin by commending the gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Hamilton, for his insight in recognizing the need to have this kind of discussion in the last Congress; and I am happy to have been part of the organized effort to make sure it occurred. My testimony today will address the budgetary process and scheduling matters. With respect to the congressional budgeting process, I think it is safe to say that the size of our budget deficit and the national debt is sufficient testimony to the need for budgetary reforms. People say if it is not broke, don't fix it. Well, we are broke and it is time to fix it.
I believe that the first step to budgetary reform is to eliminate some of the tools of the trade that result in poor fiscal policy and fiscal irresponsibility.
For example, continuing resolutions should be eliminated, in my judgment. I believe that the appropriations process should begin sooner to avoid the last-minute rush to complete spending bills. And if Congress cannot complete its work within the fiscal year, then suspending our paychecks will serve as a motivation to work more expeditiously. I will come back to this point a little bit later, though, in my testimony.
If we can't have the abolition of the continuing resolution, I believe that mandatory recorded votes and strict limits on the inclusion of legislative language in the continuing resolutions, beyond what is needed to continue Federal spending at current levels, should be adopted. Moreover, I believe that the Federal Government should replace our current system of the baseline budgeting with a system that does not automatically account for additional spending.
The perception is that if a program receives the exact same dollar amount as it did in the previous year, then in fact it remains the same and there was a cut because of the fact that there was no inflationary increase. In this town, perception is everything, and baseline reforms make it easier to balance the budget, in my judgment.
While these reforms and others will help prevent us from poor budgeting in the future, I believe we need to make it easier to cut spending and eliminate wasteful projects. Accordingly, I believe that the current process of considering presidential rescission orders stacks the deck in favor of spending. I favor granting the President greater rescission authority, allowing for a more expeditious consideration of the President's rescission orders, and forcing Congress to vote on every rescission order, rather than allowing the rescission to go ignored altogether.
I also believe that the Congress should engage in more long-term budgeting and planning. In addition to our annual budgets, the Congress should approve a 5- or 10-year budget plan that gives some indication of our long-term goals and priorities for the country.
And if these systemic reforms that I have proposed do not work, then I have a proposal that I am certain will assist in reducing the Federal budget deficit. It is a bill that I introduced in the last Congress called merit pay, and it will cut Representatives' salary 5 percent for every year that there is a budget deficit.
Now, that goes over pretty well back home with the farmers that understand that if you don't do a good job, you are not going to get the same money you received last year, and I think the same should bode true for us. I am convinced that this implementation would balance the Federal budget and maybe even do it overnight. With respect to scheduling, I want to start by saying that I believe that only half-only half of a Representative's job is here in Washington, and the other half is working for his or her constituents back home. Our founding fathers envisioned a citizen legislature where ordinary citizens would spend part of their year deliberating over issues of national interest and the other part living,