The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress held its first meeting and hearing on Tuesday, March 12. The committee, chaired by Representative Derek Kilmer of Washington state, met to adopt its rules and receive testimony from House Members on how Congress should be reformed.
The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress was created on January 4. The House gave it the task of recommending ways to improve the Legislative Branch. It must study issues like staffing, resources, scheduling, technology, and others. Unlike most congressional committees, it is divided evenly between the parties. Representative Derek Kilmer of Washington state is the chairman and Representative Tom Graves of Georgia is the vice chairman.
Approximately 30 Members of the House, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, spoke before the committee. Representatives discussed topics such as the House calendar, staffing, whether Congress had enough resources to fulfill its responsibilities, the budget process, and others.
Speaker Pelosi spoke about the need for transparency, inclusivity, responsiveness to the public, and modernization in general. “I do believe that as an institution that’s been around…well over 200 years, that we should always be subjecting how we function to some scrutiny and some shedding light on how we can do things in a better way,” she said.
Majority Leader Hoyer called for Congress to restore earmarks in a responsible and transparent manner, to increase the resources available to the Legislative Branch, and to modernize its technological capabilities. He also warned that, regardless of the changes the House might implement as a result of the Select Committee’s work, Members themselves must commit to ensuring Congress is effective.
“No matter what processes we adopt, no matter how transparent we are, if we don’t have a commitment as individual Members of this Congress to make this institution work in a positive, productive way for the citizens, no process is going to make us do that. And I hope we can all do that together,” Hoyer said.
Like Hoyer, Leader McCarthy urged Congress to greatly increase its technological prowess—and he pointed out that Members might be ready for reform. “I think you have a very willing Congress on both sides of the aisle that would like to see Congress take the traditions of the past but apply it to a changing future,” he said.
The select committee must issue its final report at the end of this session of Congress. The final report must secure a 2/3 majority of the committee members to be adopted. Updates on the select committee’s work will be posted on the Congressional Institute website throughout the year.
For more on congressional reform and the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress visit:
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.