Time is running out on the panel created to improve the functioning of Congress
Lawmakers on a temporary panel to improve the functionality of Congress are racing to ensure the recommendations they’ve offered over the past three years are implemented before time runs out.
Members of the House Select Committee on Congressional Modernization are crafting a resolution that would implement about 30 recommendations the group has already approved. Likely to be presented in the coming weeks, the resolution includes proposals supporting the expansion of tuition assistance and professional development opportunities for staff members, the organization of bipartisan retreats for members and ensuring that websites and Congress buildings are easily accessible to people with disabilities.
Speaking alongside the committee’s GOP vice chairman at an event with the Bloomberg government, chairman Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) said the committee, which may not return at the next Congress, is “sprinting to the finish line.”
“We don’t just want to make recommendations, we want to make changes,” Kilmer said. “A lot of our focus here this year is going to be on implementing some of these reforms so that we can have a Congress that works better for the American people.”
The panel, split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, has no legislative jurisdiction and limited power to achieve its goals. So Kilmer and Vice President William Timmons (RS.C.) have had to rely on other committees, agencies and leaders to act on their recommendations to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of the chamber.
Two-thirds of the committee must approve the recommendations, but to be implemented, some must be passed as a resolution by the full House. Others could be implemented at the start of the 118th Congress when the chamber typically passes a new set of rules.
Of the 97 recommendations approved at the 116th Congress, 27 have been fully implemented and 15 more are close, according to an updated tally from the committee. There were also 45 recommendations approved in 2021, and the committee could vote on more this year before the end of the 117th Congress.
Watch the Bloomberg government panel interview
Barriers to Implementation
Money is a barrier to implementing recommendations passed by the House, though it could be made easier if Congress passes a $2 million package to implement the panel’s recommendations. The House passed the funding in July as part of the 2022 Legislative Year Spending Bill (HR 4346), but a final spending bill has yet to be approved by both houses.
Another issue is technology. For example, a recommendation to create a common schedule for committee hearings that would help avoid duplication and allow MPs to have better attendance blocked due to software used by the Clerk of the House. “Breaking this system would be expensive,” Timmons said.
And then there is the capacity and choice of recommendations to prioritize. During a hearing in January, Clerk Cheryl Johnson told lawmakers, “We only have one project team and we have multiple projects.”
In the future
The committee, created when Democrats took control of the House in January 2019, received two extensions beyond its original expiration date of February 2020. It is unclear whether another extension will be granted with control of the room up for grabs in the midterm elections.
Timmons said he spoke with the Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on the future of the committee, including that it could become a subcommittee of the House Administration Committee. Deciding what happens next will depend on what the committee can do over the next 10 months, he said.
“Hopefully in December the president and I can look at each other and say we’ve done our job and we can move into a new form,” he said.
When reached by government Bloomberg, McCarthy and President Nancy Pelosi(D-Calif.) The offices did not comment on the executives’ visions for the modernization panel after this year.
representing Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), the top Republican on the House Administration Committee and a member of the modernization panel, said in a statement that “the work of implementing reforms will continue beyond this Congress.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in washington at [email protected]