More Congressional Change
Author: Jamie Dupree
When the Republicans took over the U.S. House in 1994, it was a watershed election, because the GOP had not been in charge in 40 years. This time, they only spent four years in the minority.
So what is going to be changed by the new majority starting in January of next year?
Work on that has begun in earnest, as a 22 member Republican group has been meeting in the U.S. Capitol, looking at ways to shake things up in the House.
"Our goal is to look at how we can make the U.S. House of Representatives more open, more transparent," said group leader Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR).
Few details have been offered so far in public, but the goals also include making Congress more cost-efficient - in other words - cutting some money from the bottom line.
"It's time to end the backroom deals and legislative trickery that have defied the will of the people and led to unsustainable debt and overgrown government," said panel member Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX).
As a reporter, talk of transparency is great when it comes to finding out information about bills and legislative action.
The internet has made it much easier to get into the details of bills in a way that just was not possible before - and the more information about committee action and votes - the better.
One step that the GOP has already announced is that TV cameras will be installed in the House Rules Committee for the first time.
That committee, which is located in a small room, just upstairs from the House Chamber, may be the most powerful panel of all in the Congress, because it determines how bills are considered on the House floor.
While almost every other committee in both the House and Senate has opened its doors to cameras and streamed its meetings on the internet, the Rules Committee has not.
And usually, that's where the late night document dump often occurs, as the House leadership looks to jam through a major bill.
One very interesting thing to watch will be how the GOP conducts itself in the majority. When Republicans took over from Democrats in 1995, they did open up proceedings more on the House floor and avoided the use of procedures that limited amendments and votes.
But by the time they were ousted in 2006, the GOP was acting like a bad boss, stepping on the throats of Democrats at every turn.
Democrats pledged to change that, but they quickly went against that promise, and made things even more restrictive, especially on major budget bills, crowding out almost all Republican amendments.
One former member from the 1994 time frame told the current crop of GOP lawmakers that they should treat Democrats as they want to be treated. In other words, don't put the screws with them over the rules and debate on the House floor.
It sounds like a great idea, but I've now watched as both parties talked that talk, but ultimately didn't walk that walk.
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