House leaders from both parties have now named their picks for the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, allowing the panel to commence its work. Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on January 4 that Representative Derek Kilmer would serve as chairman. “Americans deserve a Congress that approaches its work in innovative new ways. I’m honored to have been chosen to lead the committee tasked with coming up with the ways to modernize Congress and get it working for the people again,” Representative Kilmer said.
Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California announced his selections for the committee on February 8. “This committee cuts to the core of what the House of Representatives strives for every day: a direct conversation with the American people in an effort to solve problems and make our country and communities better. Technology has unquestionably improved House productivity, but we must aspire to do better when it comes to connecting with and serving the American people,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy assigned Representatives Tom Graves and Rob Woodall of Georgia; Susan Brooks of Indiana; Rodney Davis of Illinois; Dan Newhouse of Washington; and William Timmons of South Carolina as the Republican committee members. Representative Graves will be the vice chairman of the committee.
On January 29, Speaker Pelosi named Representatives Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, Suzan DelBene of Washington, Zoe Lofgren of California, Mark Pocan of Washington, and Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania as the Democratic Members of the Committee.
The House created the Select Committee on January 4, the day after the 116th Congress convened. It is charged with recommending to the House ways to reform its internal operations. Topics within its mandate include procedure, staffing, technology, leadership development, and others. The Select Committee is required to issue status reports every 90 days and must issue a final report by the end of the first session of the 116th (around the end of the calendar year), leaving it less than 11 months to complete its work. Two-thirds of the committee members must vote in favor of a recommendation for it to pass. Any recommendations that are adopted must be submitted to standing committees that have jurisdiction over the topics in question.
Each party was required to name at least one freshman Member to the Select Committee, a nod to the newer Members who have pressed leaders for changes in the House. Additionally, they were each required to name at least one representative from both the Committee on House Administration and Committee on Rules to the panel. These two committees are significant since the former has jurisdiction over the House’s internal operations and the latter controls Floor procedure and scheduling. The Speaker and Minority leader select their party’s leader and members for these committees, though the rank and file have the opportunity to ratify the selections. (The party steering committees make selections for other committees.) Representative Lofgren (D) and Representative Rodney Davis (R) are the designees for House Administration, which they lead as chair and ranking member, respectively. Representative Woodall is the Republican Rules Committee member. Representative Scanlon doubles as the Democratic Rules Committee and freshman member. Representative Timmons is the Republican freshman. Both Representatives Lofgren and Brooks formerly chaired the House Ethics Committee.
The Select Committee is set to expire on February 1, 2020. Updates on the Select Committee’s work will be posted on the Congressional Institute website regularly.
Mark Strand is the President of the Congressional Institute and Timothy Lang is a research director. The Sausage Factory blog is a Congressional Institute project dedicated to explaining parliamentary procedure, Congressional politics, and other issues pertaining to the Legislative Branch.
Photo: Office of Representative Derek Kilmer