« PreviousContinue »
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I think the consolidation of subcommittees and committees and the reduction thereof is essential to get to the point where we can have a deliberative assembly again. Just thinking about briefly how the State legislature works, I sat on three committees as a Member for most of the time, but most Members sat on about three. There were no subcommittees. We met over a four-day period when we were actually in working session. Here we have a 3-day period and most of us sit on six to eight subcommittees.
You just can't do it, and I think the key is, we have got to consolidate. And I know the senior Members are going to give you a different story, and I just think you have got to keep in mind that they have a different perspective based on seniority.
Mr. DREIER [presiding.] To make you feel better, there are more than a few senior Members that have said just about what you have said here. And the key is going to be for all of us to work together to try and bring that magic number of 218 votes to this reform package.
Mr. Allard would like to ask a question.
Mr. ALLARD. Thank you, Congressman Dreier. I would like to personally welcome all of you to this committee, and I think that the whole country owes you a good deal of thanks for the effort that you made in the last session in trying to bring about congressional reform, and I think we owe you a big thank you.
I am glad to see all of you come here and show up at this table as a Gang of Seven to testify, because you have made your mark as the Gang of Seven, and it is important that you continue to push for congressional reform.
I would just like to make a few comments that I think perhaps need to be reiterated again. I think Congressman Nussle made a good point that these committee rooms are not always conducive to a good exchange of ideas, and it is rather intimidating. I know that you have all served in-most of you have served as legislators in your state. I think in many cases it is less formal. Everybody is on the same level, and you have your testimony; and I think it encourages more of an exchange of ideas, and I think that bears repeating.
I also think that Congressman Boehner needs to be mentioned for having the courage to have-was it OSHA that you had coming into your office to do an inspection-and I think that, you know, to make a point, that congressmen need to live under the same laws as everybody else.
And you know, I know that I don't happen to espouse that we are a different branch of government so we should be treated differently. You know, every businessman out there will have an unexpected visit occasionally from a regulatory agency and be held accountable, and I don't think it hurts congressmen to be exposed to that same type of situation. I think it would make this a better place and make congressmen relate better to the problems of those in their own congressional districts, and those people back at the grassroots level.
Congressman Taylor, you had talked about duplication of effort, and you are in a position on the Appropriations Committee to, I think, provide information to this committee on where you see du
plication. We talked a little bit about maybe committees having the same function but different names, and so it is difficult to ferret out where that duplication may occur. And I hope that you continue to pursue that. I think that it would be very helpful to this committee.
And I appreciate Congressman Santorum mentioning the fact that there is a CRS publication and calling it to this committee's attention, so that the committee Members will remind themselves to go ahead and review them. And then last, this committee has tried to set a standard to a certain degree, and I want to compliment both Chairman Hamilton as well as Senator-Senate Chairman Boren because of the fact that they have done away with proxy voting, and I think if we are talking about reducing the number of committees, that is one way to do it. You have got to have your Members there, and I think you drive fewer committees because they know they have to be there; and if they are not, it is going to reflect on their record of attendance and I think that is important.
This is a committee that has tried to work on a bipartisan effort. I think one of the problems around here is that we tend to be too partisan at times and don't focus on the issues enough. And again I would like to compliment the Chairman for making this a bipartisan committee and allowing all Members on the committee to participate and to begin to set an example for the rest of the Congress. Mr. DREIER. Thank you very much, Mr. Allard. Let me say, Mr. Nussle, that I was a strong proponent of your idea of the even playing field and the round table, up until this afternoon, for myself. But we appreciate your testimony and thank you all again for the very hard work you have done.
Mr. TAYLOR. May I make one suggestion? We had it in debate recently in the Appropriations Committee.
When you consider, as I am sure you are going to, Congress being affected by the laws it passes, don't fall into the trap of passing those laws with the idea that the taxpayer will have to bear the penalty. In other words, if it we operate our offices as small businesses. It would be more meaningful if at least the changes had to come out of our budget. If individual malfeasance on our part, sex discrimination or civil rights or whatever had to come out of our pockets rather than allowing it to be pushed onto the general public through Congress, that would make us think about what we are doing when we start to do them-the same thing the small businessman has to be put to.
Mr. ALLARD. Well said. Thank you.
Mr. BOEHNER. Mr. Chairman, just one last note and I know that we are behind schedule. I just want to beg the committee to be bold. We all know that the challenge in front of you is immense, that if the plan is too bold, it may not secure enough votes, but the fact is that the problems that confront this institution are serious. And they need to be dealt with. And rather than the committee to come out with a few recommendations that we know we can get passed I would, as one Member here, suggest that the committee do what is necessary, and to be bold in your recommendations and let's take the fight from there. Thank you.
Mr. DREIER. Thank you all very much.
The next panel that we have are two freshman Democrats who are actively involved in this issue, Mr. Fingerhut and Ms. Shepherd. And Mr. Barrett is here.
We were expecting you to be part of a panel earlier this morning with Mr. Shays. Could we proceed with these two, and then if you would like to make a statement after that, we will look forward to it.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. KAREN SHEPHERD, A U.S.
Ms. SHEPHERD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We are very, very delighted to be here and to have the opportunity to address the concerns of the freshman class to this Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. Last June when the House of Representatives voted to create this Joint Committee, the winds of change in reform were already being felt here on Capitol Hill. By last November, those winds had grown to a full gale. We were feeling them full force all through our campaigns, sweeping a new President into office, an independent candidate into a major force in the presidential election, and a record 110 new Members into the House of Representatives.
Many of us who are new Members campaigned on issues of congressional reform and revitalization. And although many of us spoke about the same themes, we still bring as many perspective and specific ideas, we believe, to the process as the more experienced Members of Congress.
Last December when the new 110 Members came to Washington for the first time as a class, we were faced immediately with a series of recommended changes in the rules of the House. These changes ranged from such noncontroversial issues as the renaming of the Interior Committee to the much more contentious issue of permitting delegates to vote within the Committee of the Whole House.
We turned to the House leadership and asked them for a 90-day delay period in which we would be allowed to review the workings of the proposed changes, and more importantly, a chance to come up with additional suggestions that might be incorporated into the ongoing effort to reform and revitalize Congress. The leadership agreed to our request for a review and planning period. Thus, the freshman task force on reform was born.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. ERIC FINGERHUT, A U.S.
Mr. FINGERHUT. Mr. Chairman and Mr. Vice Chairman, thank you also for allowing us to testify.
Our task force established four subgroups dealing with many of the issues that this Joint Committee has identified also for study. One of the groups is focusing its attention on the House rules and the ability of the body to serve in a deliberative fashion. For example, proposals are under consideration to institute regular Oxford Union-style debate in the House. This debate time would be re
served for full House consideration, and no committee hearings would be scheduled in order to allow all Members to participate. We have an appropriations subgroup which is looking into the process of the allocation of Federal dollars, especially in this time of our extraordinary deficit. We are investigating proposals to require roll call votes on all appropriations bills, amendments and conference reports. In addition, we have been exploring means for Members to have separate line item votes on critical appropriations legislation.
We have another group looking at the sensitive issue, we understand, of seniority, including all of the suggestions on term limits: limiting the number of years Members can serve, limiting committee tenure, rotating committee chairs, providing for less adherence to seniority with respect to choosing committee Chairs.
A final group of our-final subgroup of our task force is coming up with proposals on ethics and campaign finance reform. We hope to develop a mechanism to continue the process of bringing Congress under the purview of all laws from which it is currently exempt. We also will be looking at both the presidential campaign fund as well as congressional campaign finance reform legislation. Some of the recommendations that will come out of our task force will require changes in the House Democratic Caucus rules, some will entail changes in the rules of the House and will need to be adopted by that body, and still others, such as campaign finance reform, will require full congressional action and a presidential sig
Some of the reform measures are likely to deal with the broad legislative reorganization topics that this Joint Committee has under consideration.
Although the task force was established by the Democratic Members of the freshman class, we hope, where appropriate, to bring our proposals to our Republican colleagues and enlist their enthusiastic support.
We will have our recommendations ready, Mr. Chairman, by March 31. We would appreciate the opportunity to come back before the Joint Committee at that time and present our ideas to you, either in oral testimony or in a written format as you would choose.
We thank you again for the opportunity to address this committee.
I would specifically say thank you also to the Vice Chairman, Mr. Dreier, for having reached across the aisle and invited us to do so and indicated a willingness to work on a bipartisan manner on these issues. We appreciate the opportunity.
We look forward to working with you on the difficult task of furthering the reform and revitalization of the Congress. Thank you. Chairman HAMILTON. Well, thank you both. We certainly want to take up your offer, and we look forward to the opportunity to sit down with you on specific issues.
When your report is ready, let us know, and Mr. Dreier and I and others will be happy to meet with you. If you want to present that in the formal setting of a hearing, we can certainly arrange it; if you prefer to do it informally, we will do that too.
But I certainly commend you and your fellow freshman colleagues for taking this initiative. And you have a perspective on this institution that those of us who have been here a little longer don't have, and it is an important perspective, it is a fresh perspective. So we look forward to working with you. Thank you very much.
Mr. FINGERHUT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. SHEPHERD. Thank you.
[The statements of Ms. Shepherd and Mr. Fingerhut are printed in the Appendix.]
Mr. DREIER. Mr. Chairman, let me just say briefly that I enjoyed talking with you last night, Mr. Fingerhut. I truly believe that the two of you represent the best hope for implementation of a reform package that we have. It seems to me that new Members of Congress, the 110 freshman Republicans and Democrats, came here in large part on this issue of reform. And there have been many packages for reform that have been submitted to the Congress in the past, and other commissions have met, and yet they have had a very difficult time implementing those proposals.
As Chairman Hamilton said just a few minutes ago, we are going to have some wonderful ideas for change. The key is going to be to get 218 votes in support of that. So it is my hope that we will be able to work closely with you.
I have made the request of Chairman Hamilton and Chairman Boren that we have another opportunity for freshman Members to testify before the committee. Why? Because your perspective today is different than it will be in April or May.
So I do hope, Mr. Chairman, that we will in fact be able to have freshmen, Democrats and Republicans, come in after having served for another couple of months to testify before this committee and offer their recommendations to us.
Mr. FINGERHUT. I might say, Mr. Vice Chairman, that our perspective this morning is probably different than it was yesterday after observing the session last night.
Ms. SHEPHERD. Thank you very much.
Chairman HAMILTON. Let's get the others that have been waiting quite a while.
We apologize. Maybe all of you could line up at the table here, Mr. Machtley and Mr. Meehan, Mr. Bartlett there, just come right on up and we will-Mr. Quinn, maybe you could join them as well. Mr. Crapo, you may want to join us at the table when you are ready.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. RONALD K. MACHTLEY, A U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND Mr. MACHTLEY. I will go ahead and start, and I will try and be brief, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Vice Chairman.
I appreciate the opportunity to testify. I think this is a most worthwhile process that we are going through, and I think the American people are I think looking and watching what we are doing, but they are ultimately going to wait and see if we enact