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What I am suggesting will cut in half the number of committees in front of which administration and other witnesses must testify. It will thus cut the cost of Congress by eliminating unnecessary duplication.
And finally, let me just add that there are ways to implement the plan that I am suggesting by taking into consideration seniority. We don't have to step on people's seniority here. But it wouldthis end of duplication would make people more accountable and I think add to the efficiency of Congress. And I appreciate the opportunity of testifying today.
Chairman HAMILTON. Mr. Rohrabacher, you have given some very radical proposals that are quite intriguing. I have given― myself I have given some thought to those as well. We thank you for your contribution.
Mr. DREIER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I should say that radical proposals are not unusual for Dana Rohrabacher, and you should also know, Dana, that as you look at this panel, there is no one on the Appropriations Committee, so you can feel comfortable having made the recommendation. I think it is a fascinating idea and something which this committee clearly should address, and I thank you very much for your insight.
Chairman HAMILTON. Any further comments? Thank you, Mr. Rohrabacher.
[The statement of Mr. Rohrabacher is printed in the Appendix.] Chairman HAMILTON. Governor Castle, we are very pleased to have you, and thank you for the written testimony you have submitted to the committee. Mr. Goodling, you have separate testimony, I presume. It is not on the same topics.
Mr. Castle, you have been waiting quite a while. We ask you to stay within that 5-minute time period, if you can, please.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. MICHAEL CASTLE, A U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE STATE OF DELAWARE Mr. CASTLE. I will try my best. Thank you very much. Chairman HAMILTON. That is tough for governors. After you have been around here a while, you get a little used to it.
Mr. CASTLE. Thank you, and Members of the committee, I am pleased to be here. I almost hesitated to come here, because after four weeks of being a Member of this body, I am sure I am going to look back at my testimony a year from now and say, my God, how could I have said that? My approach is sort of scatter-shocked; it is not a specific approach to one thing, it is a general approach, and perhaps it needs to be distilled by this committee and others. But these are the sorts of things that caught my attention early on in terms of the conference.
First of all, it appears to be turned upside down, to me, in that the subcommittees and their chairs seem to be the most important people in the legislation, rather than committees themselves and the chairs of those committees and then the Congress itself; the work seems to take place there. Some of what I am speaking to is aimed at that.
I think we should have a clear agenda each year. I think we should streamline the committee structure, which would simplify our procedures. I think there are still special perks and privileges that is still a problem-and we need to go about doing that in some structured form. I would want to reduce the number of committees and subcommittee and staff. I thought that abolishing the four select committees was actually a good start, but it is just a start; much more has to be done. With a system involving some 20,000, I believe, staff members, 147 subcommittees and 22 standing committees, and 140 congressional member organizations and legislative service groups, which also impinge on our time, I think congressional downsizing is not just needed, it is absolutely in order at a fairly significant level.
At a minimum, I think we need to schedule committee and subcommittee meetings more. It did not happen to me, but one of the freshmen indicated that he had two subcommittees of Banking scheduled at the same time. Then, again, I was with a freshman who was sitting in on the wrong subcommittee because he didn't know which committee he was on. If that is happening, it is a problem.
I would recommend a centralized computer system to try to address that problem for all scheduling in this building. It is astounding having five or six things taking place at the same time, often involving the same people, and it seems to me that with a little bit of mechanization with computers we could avoid a great deal of it, and allow us to do the things that we should be doing, instead of dancing from one place to another, which is one of the problems here.
I would like to see the assigning of bills to multiple committees prevented. There may be reasons for that; it doesn't seem to make sense to me as a freshman.
Obviously, I think the seniority system should at least be limited. The term on committee Members and Ranking Minority Members should be limited, probably rotated, as should membership on committees. I think we all get too settled in; perhaps we don't know enough about what else is going on down here.
With all this, with perhaps fewer subcommittees to have to go to, I think we can eliminate proxy voting. I think proxy voting both is bad and looks bad, in both orders. At the beginning of a legislative session, I do think we need to set a clear and descriptive agenda. We need a legislative calendar to do that.
Sandy, do you think we need special joint congressional committees for certain pieces of legislation? Health care comes to mind as one I think that would work better in a special committee.
On a procedural, larger basis, I believe the session is fine in terms of the days that we are in session, but I think it should start earlier in the morning. I think we should spend more time in session on the House Floor. I believe, from what I have seen, that we should abolish the Committee of the Whole. Last night was rather unimpressive, voting on the same thing two or three times, both in the House and in the Committee of the Whole. It is just not something I can comprehend at this point as a freshman. I think that every bill and every committee report should be available 48 hours
before we vote on it, with the exception of, obviously, national emergencies.
Just last night was very confusing in terms of what we were actually voting on, the Family and Medical Leave Act. I think we should protect the budget process. I clearly have some concerns about that. I don't know enough about it yet to be constructively critical, but I do criticize it based on what I have seen so far.
I, for one, favor eliminating practically all automatic cost-ofliving increases. I have always accepted social security, simply because I think we should be compelled to vote on budget matters in this place and make the budget be balanced. That may be beyond the scope of this committee, but I think it is important.
Another concern of mine as far as Congress is concerned frankly is the franking privilege. I believe it is too expensive. I think that we should eliminate unsolicited mass mailings. If you just cut back all of the mailing costs of the Members in half, you save some $50 million a year. I think that clearly needs to be looked at in the Congress of the United States, and I think that we should live under the laws that everybody else lives under.
I know it can be complex in putting it into effect, but, by God, if everyone else has to do it, why shouldn't we have to do it? Thank you for listening to me.
[The statement of Mr. Castle is printed in the Appendix.]
Chairman HAMILTON. Thank you, Mr. Castle. I must say, have you learned a lot in the few days you have been here. You have made some very good suggestions for us. Thank you
Ms. NORTON. Mr. Chairman, if I might, could Mr.-I can't resist responding to Governor Castle's suggestion that we not have to vote in the House on everything that has been voted on in the Committee of the Whole, if you would. That is a reform, Governor Castle, that you might facilitate instantly coming into being, since you might ask those on your side of the aisle who insisted that we vote on every amendment not to do so.
We don't need a reform or recommendation from this committee to accomplish this; we just need some parity and some comity and some greater collegiality in this body, thank you.
I think we could get into a superficial side to this argument, that we could get into-but I understand what you are saying. I would like to eliminate unnecessary votes, too. I have some serious questions about the delegate concerns, but I do think the Committee of the Whole is duplicative, and maybe we should resolve the delegate problem some other way if that is really what drives the Committee of the Whole. I don't know the whole structure and function of the Committee of the Whole.
Chairman HAMILTON. Mr. Dreier.
Mr. DREIER. Let me just say to you, Mike, that I don't believe that you will regret anything that you have said here today in the coming months, because you have offered some very helpful and beneficial recommendations which some of the rest of us have considered, too; and I thank you for your testimony. Mr. CASTLE. Thank you, sir.
Chairman HAMILTON. Thank you, Mr. Castle.
We will go to Mr. Goodling. I might have Mr. Skelton and Mr. Porter, if they would, come up; Mr. Hutto also. Are you with Mr. Skelton, Mr. Hutto? I want to keep it flowing.
Mr. Skelton, why don't you join Mr. Goodling there at the table, and Mr. Porter, he is on my list at least, and then we will get you in line early.
Mr. Goodling, it is good to have you, sir. You may proceed.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. WILLIAM F. GOODLING, A U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Mr. GOODLING. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I had to laugh when the Governor was talking about scheduling, because I think when I came the first year I was saying the same thing. I had just come from scheduling thousands and thousands of students and hundreds of teachers, and we never had any conflicts; and here I was finding that not only was I having a conflict between committees, but even on the same committee-a subcommittee was meeting at the same time the full committee of that same committee was meeting; and it was just mind-boggling.
Let me very quickly mention two concerns that I have. I have a statement for the record, but I will just very quickly mention a couple of concerns that I have, and one that comes up in my committee constantly, because as the Ranking Member, we have the jurisdiction on the labor issues, and I try each time to present an amendment that would indicate that the Congress should be under the same laws as the rest of the people for whom we write the law. And I do that for two reasons.
First of all, I think that if we were, perhaps we would be a little more careful the way we write the laws, if we realized all of the paperwork and all of the expenses, et cetera, et cetera, that we put on the private sector, or local school districts or whoever it may be. If we had to follow the same rules and regulations, perhaps we would think a little more clearly when we are writing that kind of legislation.
I was just looking over some of the labor laws-the Labor Relations Act of 1935, the Minimum Wage Act of 1938, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination Act of 1967, Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Equal Employment Opportunities Act of 1972 and we don't cover ourselves with any of those kinds of things, which I think the public finds very arrogant on our part. The other that I would like to turn to quickly, and this may be something that has already been dealt with or is going to be dealt with, simply by letting them die.
You know, I don't want anyone to think that I am anti-children, because my whole life has been working with children and families. I don't want anyone to think that I am anti-hunger, because I think Chairman Perkins is the father of school lunch and child nutrition; but I would like to think that I am the son of school lunch and child nutrition, and many times have had to fight my side of the aisle to keep those kind of programs going.
But we give an awful lot of money and an awful lot of staff to select committees that have no jurisdiction whatsoever, and have no power whatsoever. And it is duplicative. Everything that they
do in most of those select committees, we should have the oversight responsibility in the committee in which I serve, we should have the responsibility to get the legislation sought; and I just don't think we can afford to have that kind of bureaucratic nightmare. They were supposed to be select committees, and I can remember a note that Panetta made not too many years ago where he said that these were supposed to be very temporary. Well, you know how temporary they have been, and I think we really need to take a look at that. If we are not going to, we should. And as I said, perhaps they are going to die simply because their time has come to die. But we can't afford it, and we can't afford duplication.
So those are the two areas that I would suggest you might look at, and I think it would make us much more acceptable in the eyes of the public if we would take action on both of those.
Chairman HAMILTON. Thank you very much, Mr. Goodling. Those are excellent suggestions and come out of a long experience here. We appreciate it very, very much.
[The statement of Mr. Goodling is printed in the Appendix.] Chairman HAMILTON. Mr. Skelton.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. IKE SKELTON, A U.S.
Mr. SKELTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I do appreciate this opportunity to testify before your committee, because it is most important work that you do.
Last summer the Democratic Forum put together a task force to come up with several recommendations on congressional reform, and I have the privilege of chairing that task force-and I mention it is the same as yours-to make a complete study of the operation of Congress, make recommendations to help us operate more efficiently and effectively. And I along with Charles Stenholm and our former colleague, Liz Patterson, testified before the Democratic Caucus Task Force on Rules Changes late last year before the end of the session.
I am here to give you a very brief outline today and ask that my full statement be entered into the record.
Chairman HAMILTON. Without objection, that will be done. Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, I strongly recommend that during all of your hearings and your deliberations that you have one polestar in mind, besides, of course, making this a more deliberative and more representative body here on Capitol Hill. But this one polestar in mind should be that of saving time.
Mr. Goodling mentioned when he first came to Congress the conflicts he had, and we live in conflicts. Committee hearings, people coming in testifying, Floor votes and some piled on top of each other.
We find ourselves more and more, Mr. Chairman, having to rely on staffs for their thoughts, ideas, input and the like, and Mr. Chairman, it has been my experience that the Members of Congress that are here are some of the hardest working, brightest, dedicated people I have ever run into.