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In other words, the whole movement for term limitations seemed to be based on-we can achieve most of what is desired simply by changing the rules of the House.
Ms. DUNN. Can I ask a followup?
Mr. DREIER. Go ahead.
Ms. DUNN. I think what I would also like to ask you is, do the chairmen of the committees, do they hire the staff, and when a new chairman comes in, would a new staff come?
Mr. PORTER. I have never been a chairman, so you are asking the wrong guy. I believe that the chairman has a right to choose his staff, but in many cases the chairman will keep the same staff on, simply because he knows that they very knowledgeable and have a lot of experience that he would want to rely upon, and by the time he gets to be chairman or she gets to be chairman, they know that staff and know the people they want to keep.
Yes, it would create a bit of a problem in that regard. But once again, in our economy, we have winners and losers; that is what makes it work. And having a dynamic turnover in this body is not necessarily for that reason a bad thing.
Mr. DREIER. Thank you very much, Ms. Dunn, and I think that this line of questions demonstrates the importance of having a new Member of Congress on this Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress.
Thank you very much for your testimony, John, and we look forward to working with it.
And Mr. Shaw, if you would come forward, and we will take the duo of Floridians; and if you want to begin, Mr. Hutto.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. EARL HUTTO, A U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
Mr. HUTTO. Mr. Chairman, it is a pleasure to be here with you this morning to testify before this group, and I wholeheartedly supported Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Gradison when they came up with this legislation creating your commission on the reorganization of Congress. I also want to applaud you on the selection of your staff director. Kim Wincup, before he went over to the executive branch, did an outstanding job as the staff director of the House Armed Services Committee.
Mr. DREIER. It is nice to get that word there, because I had some doubts.
Mr. HUTTO. Mr. Chairman, from our very beginning, Congress has not been universally loved, as you know. I get a kick out of Will Rogers's humor about Congress. But I think that the respect for Congress has probably reached a low ebb, and I think it is time that we do something about it.
I think that your committee has a wonderful opportunity to make some very significant changes in our Nation, and so I know that you are receiving a lot of input, and I am confident that what you come up with is going to improve Congress a great deal.
One of the things that I have felt for a long time and have introduced legislation to do, and that is to provide for a longer budget cycle. I believe we ought to have biennial budgeting. I think that it would provide for more oversight; we wouldn't always constantly
be looking at a new budget. The agencies of government would not always be what-not always be trying to spend what they have, so that they can get more for the next time. I hope you can consider that.
I certainly endorse the proposal to cut down on committees. I think that we could do that, but more than that, I think that we ought to have groupings of committees, because of the conflicts in scheduling that we have.
Oftentimes as you know, we have markups at about two or maybe three subcommittees at the same time. My suggestion would be to look at the possibility of grouping committees. I know in the Florida legislature when I was a member, we had Groups 1, 2 and 3, and you could not serve on more than one group or one committee. And so Group 1 would have a scheduled time to meet; 2, another time; and 3, another time. I think that that ought to be looked at.
I also would state to you that I believe that we ought to have nonpartisan staffs, because I think a lot of the gridlock and the partisan bickering perhaps comes through the committee system. I don't mean that that is the major source, but I think that we ought to look at that. I believe the Armed Services Committee has through the years had good success at that sort of thing. So I certainly think that you ought to look at that.
I believe the time has come to extend the terms of Members of the House of Representatives from 2 to 4 years. I realize that our founders back then wanted one body to be close to the people, but how close can you be?
Now, back then it took forever to get home, I guess, the horse and buggy days didn't even have telephones, much less television, but now you have jet travel and instant communications. I think the situation has changed a great deal.
I believe we ought to have a constitutional amendment to increase the terms to 4 years and stagger those terms. I realize that in so doing you would probably have to put a provision, and you have to get it through the Senate, that no Member of the House could run for another office during his term without resigning. Otherwise, a Member of the House could get a free ride by running for the Senate if that term was up, without having to give up his term. That is something I believe that should be looked at.
I support some changes in the other body, and as I think most of us would, the germaneness rule. We have taken a lot of flak for riders that have been added onto bills without these measures having been through the committee process, and I think that has been one of the sources of our problems.
Campaign spending limits, I believe, should be forthcoming, and I know we would have to have a constitutional amendment, but I believe it ought to be done. I do believe that we should continue to allow PACs; I think that is better than having corporations to give, for example, but I support the limitation of the amount that a PAC can give to an individual candidate.
And, of course, enhanced rescissions I think is very, very important. We came very close to passing that. We did pass it in the House; the Senate did not.
So these are measures, I think, that you have a golden opportunity to come forth with to make us a better respected Congress and to serve the people of our Nation.
[The statement of Mr. Hutto is printed in the Appendix.]
Mr. DREIER. Mr. Hutto, you in a short period of time have covered a wider range of issues than almost anyone who has testified before us; and those are very helpful recommendations, and I can assure you that they will all be considered here.
Mr. Spratt? Ms. Dunn?
Ms. DUNN. I thank you very much. I think you have touched on some really important topics, and I won't ask a question this time; I would just ask, Mr. Dreier, if I could enter into the testimony a statement by one of our freshman representatives, Mac Collins, who isn't able to be here today.
[The statement of Mr. Collins is printed in the Appendix.] Mr. DREIER. Thank you very much, Mr. Hutto. Mr. Shaw.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. E. CLAY SHAW, A U.S.
Mr. SHAW. Mr. Dreier, I want to first make note of the fact that, as a Republican, that it is indeed a privilege for me to appear before a body in this Congress with a Republican Chairman, though it be only temporarily while Mr. Hamilton is out of the room. I hope that the I hope that the bipartisan spirit will be carried forward in this committee's recommendation. It is certainly a very good start.
Mr. Republican Chairman, I do have a prepared statement that I would like to ask to be made a part of the record, and I will briefly summarize it.
Mr. DREIER. Without objection.
Mr. SHAW. I think John Porter and I must have had the same thoughts as to both of the subjects which I am going to approach, even though my approach is somewhat different. Mr. Porter started talking about rotation of Chairmen and Ranking Members of various committees. I think what we should have is a rotation of all the Members as to how long anybody can serve on a committee, not only as a Chair, Ranking Member, but also a Member of that committee.
I must say that my enthusiasm is not quite as keen as it was before I got on the Ways and Means Committee; however, I still recognize that the problem within the Congress that the people are actually complaining about when they start talking about this eight-is-enough is the entrenched status that people have on the various committees of Congress. I think this would make it a more dynamic body. It would rotate the Members; it would also give us an opportunity to clean up some old legislation that is sort of a holdover on the books and give every Member a chance to be more well rounded as being able to serve on the various committees.
One of the big problems we have with spending on the Congress is that people get on the committees that tend to get them reelected, which also encourages them to spend, many times in a wasteful manner, as to the conduct of that committee.
Ms. Dunn, you brought up a very excellent point as to entrenched staff. Every Chairman does take a look at the staff; every Ranking Member takes a look at his staff, and certainly can hire and fire as he pleases. However, if this is a-if this is a concern, we can also very easily require staff to also rotate off of committees, which would certainly do away with any objections that anybody would have in that area.
The next area that I want to speak on is also one that Mr. Porter spoke on and that is regarding the various coalitions that have been put together in the Congress as various caucuses, whether the caucus be limited to Members geographically by section, by race, or whether it-whether it be by industry or various concerns that caucuses are formed has to deal with.
One of the things that I think is not readily known by the Members of Congress is that these caucuses are not audited. They really for all practical purposes do not answer to anybody, yet they take official funds which amounts to taxpayers' dollars.
I think it is absolutely vital that if we continue the caucus process within the Congress, that any caucus receiving official expenditures from any congressional office make itself subject to regular audit, and that these audits be made public. I think this is absolutely, absolutely essential, and just simply makes good sense.
I say that with two credentials. I am a certified public accountant, as well as co-chairing the Sun Belt Caucus. We on the Sun Belt Caucus asked to be audited and were audited. I felt it was just being responsible as the co-chair of that organization to be sure that we had complete disclosure, and that we were subjected to the audit and the scrutiny of the auditor's work.
That concludes my comments.
Mr. DREIER. Thank you very much, Mr. Shaw. This issue of reform of legislative service organizations is clearly a good one, and your recommendations are very helpful, and we appreciate it. Mr. Spratt? Ms. Dunn?
Thank you very much. We appreciate it.
[The statement of Mr. Shaw is printed in the Appendix.]
Mr. DREIER. And Mr. Bacchus, if you want to come forward and join Mr. Hefley and Mr. McCurdy.
Mr. Hefley, please proceed.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. JOEL HEFLEY, A U.S.
Mr. HEFLEY. Thank you, Chairman Dreier, and than the stalwarts that are here at the committee. I always feel sorry for the people that come and testify before us from all over the country, and they have prepared their testimony at great lengths, and there are one or two or three committee Members there. And this committee is no different, because we have so much to do around here that you just can't do everything. I think maybe that is one of the reforms that I hope you will look at, and Mr. Hutto mentioned that.
And I am not-they always come and dump the whole load on us, and I am not going to dump the whole load on you. I will put it in the record and hope that you take a look at it.
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I think you are involved in the most important thing that is being done in Congress this year, and that is a reform of Congress, because I don't have to tell you-you have just gone through an election, as I have the disdain that is out there among the American public about Members of Congress.
I had a friend tell me one time-he said, you know, being a Congressman was the dream of my life. He said, the pay isn't all that great, the schedule the terrible, you are torn apart from your family, you are leaving your family half the time here or there, depending on the choice that you make; but, he said, you do get respect for the job.
What has happened to that respect? And that is not good for the American system of government for the people to lose confidence and respect in our system of government, and we have got to try to restore that. And you are the key to that now, the recommendations that you have come out with. I hope they will be tough, hardnosed recommendations to make this place operate like we would all like it to, and to restore the confidence of the American people in Congress.
They always say, Joel, you are a good one, but there aren't many of you up there. Well, my answer is, yes, there are. There are an awful lot of good ones up there that are trying to do what is right in their vision of the American scene. I am not unique in that at all. There are a lot of people up there doing that.
But somehow we are not conveying that, because the system eats us all alive up here, and it is the system that we need to change. And you know, we have had a one-party dictatorship here in the Congress for 40 years. There aren't many countries in the world with that-North Korea, Cuba, Mexico, not very many other governments that are one-party dictatorship. And while it is not like some of those dictatorships, there are corruptions that come in whether that one party be a Democratic Party or a Republican Party, there are those corruptions that come in to keep the Minority in tow, to make sure that they don't have any effective input. And I hope that you will look at those corruptions and try to change that.
We need, every one of the 435 Members of Congress, to be a player in the process, and it is not just the Minority Members that aren't effective players in the process many times; it is the junior Members that aren't effective players in the process, Members that aren't Chairmen of key committees and so forth. The power is concentrated, very definitely, in this body, and I would hope that you would look to that aspect of it.
There is an arrogance of power around here that, you know the saying, that the Minority Member's job in Congress is to show up to make a quorum and to collect his pay. And that is not right. I represent 600,000 people, as you all do, and we ought to all be players in the process.
Just to hit on two or three things that I think are very important. I think the proxy voting thing, the American people, when that is mentioned, you just-they simply cannot understand your not being present and yet being recorded as voting. And I know, I have raised this issue in both the Armed Services and Small Business Committees in the last week, and the explanations for why,