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  • Immediate Changes to Reform How Congress Works

    Changing the membership of the Congress does not fix its out-of-touch culture.

    Congress’ immense unpopularity reflects the need for fundamental change in how it operates.  The Heritage Foundation is proposing four immediate changes—starting at the top.  The proposals would restore more power to rank-and-file members of the House of Representatives, who currently yield too much to party leaders.

    The goal is to strengthen the Constitutional design of “the people’s House,” whereby power is intended to function from the bottom up, not the current top down system.  Heritage’s proposal is titled, “Four Immediate Reforms to Change the Culture of Congress.”

    Authority should be spread more broadly rather than the current concentration of power with the Speaker and other party leaders.  It is through party rules of the Democrat Caucus and the Republican Conference that the committees—which are the official House organization—are brought under control of party leaders.  Decisions on this system are set to occur the week of November 15th, long before the new Congress gathers in January.

    The Heritage proposal would change what elections cannot.  Elections alter who runs the House, but cannot address how it is run.  The underlying system has pushed that body out of touch with the American people.  The tenure of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, CA) has demonstrated the danger of the current system that concentrates too much power in the hands of too few political party leaders in Congress.

    Speaker Pelosi exemplifies what can be done with this accumulated authority, brandishing it to coerce or cajole Members into voting for the non-stimulative stimulus bill, enacting the unwieldy and unaffordable health care law, approving massive deficits, and preventing meaningful options from being considered.  She bypassed the nominal House rules with impunity to produce enormous and ill-reviewed legislation.  Plus she has used her authority to blockade the relief needed from massive tax hikes set to occur next year.

    Current party rules give party leaders excessive leverage over committee and chairmanship appointments in general, and major slots in particular.  The key is that each party’s Steering Committee, which nominally makes many of those appointments, is designed with weighted votes to be dominated by party leaders.

    Despite dominating their Steering Committees, party leaders make other key appointments directly and bypass the Steering Committees.

    The head of each party—not the Steering Committee—select who serves on the “select” and “joint” committees.  And other key positions also are personal appointments by party leaders.

    The Rules Committee controls what can or cannot be considered on the House floor, including both legislation and amendments.  As its own website proclaims, the Rules Committee functions as an “arm of the leadership” rather than being accountable to the entire Congress.  Currently, the rules of each party give the Speaker and Minority Leader personal control over all members of the Rules Committee.  Changing that would change the entire system of legislation.

    (For example, House Republican Conference Rules 12 and 13 grant sole appointive power to their potential Speaker-Designee over the chairs and all GOP members of the Rules Committee, the Administration Committee, and all select and joint committees of the House.)

    Likewise, the Speaker and minority leader have a personal lock on who serves on the House Administration Committee, which handles operations and budgeting within the House and how resources of funds, space and staff are allocated or denied to Members.

    Heritage’s proposal (online here) is a useful guide to how this party-run system operates now and how it should be corrected to make the House more responsive to the will of the American people.  An extra benefit from these reforms might be a less partisan Congress, increasing the ability of Members to work across party lines to seek solutions, as they would be less beholden to party leaders.

    Citizens have been complaining that Congress needs to be more responsive to the public, and less controlled by Washington’s ways.  This proposal is a solid first step.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    13 Responses to Immediate Changes to Reform How Congress Works

    1. ricp, Buffalo, NY says:

      Do away with the Omnibus Spending Bill foolishness! Let every department's budget be proposed separately and let each budget item be voted on individually. This way Congressmen and Senators will have to take credit, or blame, for the expenditures of each department and the ability to hide pork in the back pages will be reduced. Also the President will have the ability to sign or veto individual budget items and not be held hostage to the fear of shutting down the entire government.

    2. Stan Thow Winnipeg M says:

      Any changes to Congressional proceedures have to conform with the Constitution without Exception.

      In The PAST, Each Member of Congress, The House , The Senate, The Executive Branch and the Supreme Court Justices all swear Allegiance to the Constitution and then ignore it to satisfy their own self interests.

      The Republicans have to stick to their principals without deviation if they are to continue to form the majority and win back the respect of the People. No Compromises. Must Dismantle the Obama social programs and dismantle all of Federel Interference, Regulations and Control of Private Institutions.
      The USA to become Great again must be come Fuel ( Oil and Gas and Nuclear ) sufficient to be in control of its own destiny.

    3. SenatorMark4 says:

      Ok, I recognize that you're trying, but coming back to the old term limits idea is really a breazy way to say that you aren't serious at all. Change a little, fiddle with the rules, but leave the politicians the power to ignore things that really matter. Having politicians spend our money to buy votes as if they'd earned it themselves is the problem, has always been the problem, and will continue to be the problem as long as government is not REQUIRED to report it's spending. I labor and get W-2's and 1099-MISC for dealing with early mornings and late nights, angry clients that need to be massaged, and the IRS. 'Redistributed Income', at all levels of government, should generate 1099-GOV and filings with the IRS because it's FAIR. Only government can send checks to 70,000 felons and dead people seamlessly. Those organizations that succeed in doing this should be filing the 1099-GOV so we can track it better.

    4. Pingback: Must Know Headlines 10.26.2010 — ExposeTheMedia.com

    5. Drew Page, IL says:

      I agree completely with ricp in Buffalo, NY. These Omnibus Spending bills have become great ways to hide pork barrel spending projects. I also agree with giving the President the authority to veto or approve each of the line items of a proposed bill.

      I also believe that all proposed legislation be posted on the internet so the public can see it for a number of days equal to the number of pages of the proposed legislation, but no less than five days, before it can be signed into law by the president.

    6. rbbeaumont tucson az says:

      the power accumulation needs to be diluted my feeling is that we need term limits to prrevent power problems.dictatorships like pelosi an reid chould never exist in a republic legislature el coronel

    7. Charles King, Dawson says:

      Where does one start. 1) Return to zero (0) based budgeting for All Cabinet level agencies. 2) Impose term limits. 3) Return the rules of both houses back to the members who are elected as opposed to party leaders who've been there for far to long and are completely out of touch with American voters. 4)Try something new. It's been said that the definition of insannity is to keep doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. By this definition congress should really examine its actions and try something new for a change. How about replacing the tax code and the hated "IRS" with the "Fair Tax". What a novel idea. I would suggest all your subscribers read the book before making knee jerk comments if only for the fact that every negative comment I've ever heard about this idea originates only from people who are to lazy or to intellectualy challenged to pick up the book.

    8. Sandy, Virginia says:

      I would not agree with any Republican working across party lines until the Democrat Party comes back to their senses, and starts showing a healthy dose of Americanism according to the Constitution, rather than the Socialism they are currently pushing. The Democrats have never been known to compromise, and, I don't see them changing their minds anytime soon, even with Pelosi gone as the Madam.

    9. Drag Poje says:

      there must also be term limits, just like the president.

    10. Drag Poje Tucson,AZ says:

      there MUST be term limits, just like the president

    11. arthur leporin says:

      i believe that issues concerning the government ,should be told or shown to the people (ordinary citizens ) for comment and or vote .the congressperson should then bring the ideas to congress ,when in session to explore and look for solutions or possible answers across party lines ,using common sense judgement as i believe thomas paine authored and is what our constitution authored thank you arthur leporin i also believe we should employ weapons and missles which can be directed from afar at the enemy and a hugh effort to bring our troops home to protect our borders against insurgents from mexico.next in order would be manufacturing more u.s.a. goods and growing crops here in the u.s.a.,lower taxes for all give the richer folks an insentive to invest more here in america .

    12. Tama Cole, Dallas, T says:

      I'm worried that term limits will cause more problems with lame ducks in Congress. I think the Founders meant for us to be on the alert and vote out people rather than have an automatic system that gets rid of good and bad. I worry that term limits will make us all lazy again.

      What do you think about a 28th Amendment that "Congress shall make no laws that applies to the citizens of the US that does not apply equally to the the Senators and/or Representative; and Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States"?

    13. Jim Freeman, Lander, says:

      Lets find a way to get some control over the Federal Reserve before they bankrupt us all through the printing presses.

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