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Once the budget is in place and all of the committees then operate-both authorizing and appropriating committees within those 19 ceilings, it will be necessary to get a two-thirds vote to break the budget. Now, a majority vote will dictate our spending in every category. We will pass those spending ceilings in the form of a law. So it is a majority-rule system. But what we want then to do is to enforce it and to show that we are serious about the law we passed in the very same fiscal year. It will take two-thirds to go outside the budget.
Finally, on the issue of entitlements, which everyone understands have got to be approached in one way or another, we ought to bring those so-called uncontrollable programs within the budget process. The programs themselves are not inherently uncontrollable; they are simply uncontrolled by choice of Congress. Specifically, the appropriating language for an entitlement programs reads as follows: It is hereby proposed for fiscal year 1994 for-pick your program-such sums as may be necessary. Literally a blank check. Well, a blank check is not consistent with the budget process.
I am not suggesting any cuts as part of this reform. What I am suggesting is that we make a choice that Congress budget a specific dollar amount for every program within the budget. Once that program is budgeted with a specific dollar amount in legislation, the cabinet secretary is responsible for implementing these programs will be able to adjust benefit levels and eligibility requirements, if Congress chooses to underfund the programs, so that at the end of the year, the programs spend out at precisely the amount budgeted.
Finally, the President would be given a new tool, what I call lineitem reduction, to pare back the over-budget portion of spending to the level originally set by Congress itself. Notice that I am talking about Congress setting the budgeted priorities, not the President. And the President's only tool is to enforce a law passed by Congress itself.
There are other provisions that I would recommend to the attention of this committee, but I want to conclude my testimony within the time allotted-provisions designed to enforce the budget law, to basically legislate against all known forms of cheating.
For example, half of the rules adopted in the 102d Congress waived the Budget Act. Well, if you have a budget process and you routinely waive it, obviously it cannot be enforced, and it is of no utility. So the bill would strip the Rules Committee of jurisdiction to waive the Budget Act, make those decisions Floor actions requiring two-thirds to waive, just like everything else—in other words, a serious process designed to keep us on track with the majority vote that was taken in that same fiscal year to give us a budget.
I believe that a majority of Congress could be persuaded to vote for these reforms. This committee's recognition of the problems and efforts to solve them is an important first step. It also appears that both the Committee on the Budget and the Committee on Government Operations are prepared to address reforms of the 1974 Act. Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you and with this committee to develop a comprehensive reform proposal to reform the inner workings of the U.S. Congress.
Chairman HAMILTON. Thank you very much, Mr. Cox. We are going to be focusing very heavily on the budget process, and you have given us the kind of testimony that is very helpful to us, arising from your own experience and very specific. We will make note of that, and give it very, very careful consideration. Thank you. Mr. Zimmer, you are next.
I want to say to several colleagues in the back there-Mr. Rohrabacher, Mr. Castle, I think Mr. Goodling is on the way-they will follow Mr. Zimmer.
Mr. Packard, you are not planning to testify? All right, sir. Very good.
Thank you very much, Mr. Cox. Do you have any questions here at all for Mr. Cox? All right.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. DICK ZIMMER, A U.S.
Mr. ZIMMER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Members of the committee. I am delighted to be able to participate in this study of Congress.
Just yesterday in a conversation with a freshman Member, he expressed his reaction to Congress in virtually the same words that I used 2 years ago when I first came here. I was impressed and surprised, frankly, at the high caliber of the Members of this body in considering the relatively poor work product we put out. There is only one explanation, and that is that the process needs to be reformed, and radically so.
Like the gentleman from California, Mr. Cox, and many of my colleagues, I am a strong supporter of reforming the budget process; I also believe we should restructure our committees and staff; we should improve floor procedures, increase congressional accountability, and embrace a number of other reforms that would make this institution more responsible to the needs of today's society and help restore public confidence.
And I also approve the eight issue areas the committee has selected to comprise the core of its reform agenda, but I am pleased that the committee is also holding these preliminary hearings to ensure that a full and complete study of potential reform measures is made. And to this end, I have come today to propose a simple, yet potentially powerful reform measure, a single-subject rule for legislation.
A rule requiring that each bill contain only one subject would significantly improve the legislative process. It would help Members know what they are voting for by eliminating the confusion that results from a number of unrelated bills being coupled together. And incidentally, it would help our constituents know what we are voting for, as well.
It would prevent Members from having to vote against a bill we support because an unrelated provision we oppose is attached, or vice versa; and it would prevent some Members from building majority for bad bill by attaching other Members' pet bills to it. Finally, it would make us more accountable to our constituents by making our voting records more comprehensible.
Some form of single-subject rule quietly exists in 41 of the 50 State constitutions, and it works to prevent the kind of legislation that we see so often in Congress that confuses and infuriates the public, while allowing us in the membership to escape accountability.
For those who question the necessity of such a rule in Congress, I ask, what do extended unemployment benefits for Americans and Most Favored Nation for Hungary have in common? Most people would probably answer nothing. But if you recall, in the last Congress both subjects were dealt with in the same bill that passed Congress. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case.
For years, Congresses have avoided difficult votes or built majorities for bad bills by combining unrelated legislation. You need only to review a few back issues of Congressional Quarterly to find evidence of this fact. In a November 1986 CQ, it was reported that President Reagan was displeased at the prospect of signing an omnibus health bill, quote, "containing the texts of nine separate bills." I wonder if any Member of Congress knew everything that was in that bill.
And that bill came on the heels of a deficit reduction bill enacted that, according to CQ, included enough changes in medicare and medicaid programs to make it one of the major health bills of the 99th Congress. Unbelievably, between 1981 and 1988 Congress avoided voting on the stand-alone foreign aid appropriations bill. Instead, funding for the politically unpopular program was rolled into omnibus continuing resolutions which not only lumped together a great many appropriations bills on different subjects, but also dealt with the substance that should, I think, appropriately be dealt with by the authorizing committees.
Although these omnibus bills are among the worst of the legislative atrocities that Congress commits, the lack of a single-subject requirement also short changes the deliberative process impedes the progress of worthwhile legislation.
From my research, the earliest instance of a single-subject legislative requirement that I have been able to find comes from my State of New Jersey before it was a State. It is found in the instructions given the first colonial governor of the Colony of New Jersey in 1703 by Queen Anne. She warned this governor of the danger of legislation that ties together issues that have no relation to one another. She sensibly advocated a single-subject rule for legislation which remains in the New Jersey State constitution to this day, and has found its way into constitutions of nearly every other State in the Nation.
The queen probably didn't foresee aid for out-of-work Americans being tied to tariffs on Hungarian products, but she did understand human nature; and she surely knew that legislatures would be tempted to piggy-back self-serving legislation on an unpopular bill, and she also realized that legislatures might attempt to build support by adding other Members' pet legislation to it. And she knew that adding a single rule for legislation would prevent logrolling and protect the integrity of the legislative process. It was good advice then and it is good advice today.
I would encourage the committee to review the adoption of a single-subject rule for Congress, and I am submitting for your con
sideration two measures that I have introduced at the start of this Congress to accomplish that objective. One is a proposed constitutional amendment, and the other is an amendment to the Rules of the House. Thank you very much.
Chairman HAMILTON. Mr. Zimmer, I think, if I recall, you had experience in the New Jersey legislature.
Mr. ZIMMER. Yes, sir, I did, and I never appreciated the singlesubject restriction until I came from Trenton to Washington; I had taken it for granted. And I was appalled, frankly, at the way that the lack of a single-subject requirement tends to confuse and make less accountable the work that we do.
Chairman HAMILTON. One of the things we are surely going to have to do is to draw the experience of those that our Members like yourself, who have had experience in State legislatures. I now have a new respect for Queen Anne, incidentally.
Mr. ZIMMER. The governor wasn't a very good governor, but Queen Anne had it
Chairman HAMILTON. Queen Anne had the right instructions. Thank you very much. Questions from Mr. Dreier, Mr. Spratt, or Ms. Norton?
Thank you very much, Mr. Zimmer. I appreciate your contribution.
[The statement of Mr. Zimmer is printed in the Appendix.]
Chairman HAMILTON. Mr. Rohrabacher, Mr. Castle, I am not sure if Mr. Goodling is with you or not, but Mr. Castle, can you join us here? Thank you very much, gentlemen, for joining us this morning for your presentations. We appreciate it, and I ask that you try to keep it within the 5-minute rule if you can. Mr. Rohrabacher.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. DANA ROHRABACHER, A U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA Mr. ROHRABACHER. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate this opportunity to testify today. Mr. Chairman, any discussion of congressional reform and committee structure must come face to face with one unavoidable fact: That the House and Senate Appropriations Committees as we know them today, and the dual authorization-appropriations process serve no useful purpose. The only purpose they serve today is to enhance the personal power of the Members who are fortunate enough to have been named as Members of the Appropriations Committees.
As a new freshman 4 years ago, I was puzzled by the complications of having to, in theory, pass spending bills twice, once in the authorization and then again in appropriations. Now that I have begun my third term in this body, I have gone from being puzzled to being appalled by the waste and abuse that result from this current duplicative system.
Before the adoption of the Budget Act of 1974, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees apparently served as a useful force in restraining the spending proclivities of authorizing committees. Since 1974, however, the Appropriations Committees have become a prime source of duplication of effort and expense, as well as the prime originators of what is called "congressional pork."
Under the current system, authorization bills have become virtually meaningless as all spending power has become vested in the Appropriations Committees. The Appropriations Committees today routinely ignore the lack of authorization for their spending, and ignore authorization ceilings, even when authorization law is in place.
And increasingly, as we have seen, substantive law is being determined through the appropriations process. Congressional power today has become so concentrated in the Appropriations Committees that the primary function of every other Member of Congress is now to be an in-house lobbyist to those Members who are on the Appropriations Committees.
To remedy this situation, along with other problems, I propose that the committee structure be changed, and I have an example before you. Under the plan that I am proposing, authorizing and appropriating would be merged into the same committee. The Senate committee structure would remain about the same, except that there would be no longer a separate Appropriations Committee. Instead, each committee would be responsible for appropriations within their area of jurisdiction.
The House committee structure would mirror the more sensible organization of subject matter that the Senate adopted in its 1977 reforms. The only remaining difference between the respective committees in the House and the Senate would be the retention of some of the traditional committee names in the House and, of course, a separate Rules Committee. Appropriations would continue to be limited by the budget resolution, but much more specifically than now. Currently, spending in the budget resolution is broken down into budget functions.
The reform I am suggesting would allocate spending limits to each specific committee what is now done behind closed doors, making these allocations without so much as a vote on the Floor; and these decisions are made, of course, by what we call the "College of Cardinals"—and that is the Chairmen of the Appropriations subcommittees would now under my plan be done in the open and would be decided in the end by a vote on the Floor of each House. The simplified process I am recommending has demonstrable advantages: My plan will reduce the number of committee assignments per Member, thus allowing for greater Member participation and thus eliminating the argument for the need of proxy voting on major committees. It will greatly reduce scheduling conflicts by making all major committees exclusive or mutually exclusive assignments. It will establish accountability for the entitlement spending by putting the responsibility of entitlement spending and appropriations in the same committee, and it will ensure that those appropriating funds are the same individuals who have participated in hearings on the substantive issues of their jurisdiction.
And often, Mr. Chairman, I have been so shocked to find out that people are appropriating monies in areas that they really haven't gone through any hearings on whatsoever they don't know what they are appropriating on-and it gives a tremendous-a tremendous leverage to staff members who can just come up with the idea and say they know what is best, and the appropriators go right along with it.