Widespread Support Emerges for Extending Panel Working on Congressional Reforms

November 7, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – Multiple letters addressed to the House leadership shows there’s widespread support for extending the mandate of a select committee that has been working for the past year on finding meaningful ways to reinvigorate the procedures and culture of Capitol Hill.

The charter for that panel, the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, expires at the end of the year.

On Thursday, a diverse coalition representing more than half of the current members of the House, and the Association of Former Members of Congress, asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to move a resolution to extend the committee’s life.

In a letter to the leaders, the conservative Republican Study Committee and the centrist New Democrat Coalition, groups that represent a combined 249 members, jointly said the Select Committee “has done an impressive job of addressing a broad range of complex topics.”

“The issues in their mandate deserve more thorough consideration than they can give in the limited number of remaining days in 2019,” the letter says.

In a separate letter, the Association of Former Members of Congress noted that despite not being fully funded and staffed until mid-April, the progress of the Select Committee has been “remarkable.”

“The members of the committee are setting groundbreaking example for their colleagues, proving that it is possible for members from both sides of the aisle to work together, engage in tough discussions, and find bipartisan solutions to the challenges that all members face,” the letter said, adding, “Their collaborate approach is as genuine as it is encouraging … this work is absolutely essential if Congress is to uphold its Article One responsibilities.”

In still another letter, more than two dozen organizations, ranging from the American Library Association to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said the committee’s “efforts to modernize Congress are an excellent start, but more work is needed to ensure a responsive, modern and accountable legislature.

“While other institutional challenges may dominate the headlines, the Select Committee is well-positioned to drive reforms that will benefit Congress and the American people into the future,” the organizations’ letter said.

Formed when the House adopted its rules for the 116th Congress in January, the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress  has no legislative authority, but is tasked with conducting public hearings to discuss ways to update the way Congress conducts day-to-day business.

The bipartisan committee is Chaired by Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., who also happens to be chairman of the New Democrat Coalition.

At the time of his appointment to lead the Select Committee, Kilmer said, “It’s probably well past due for Congress to have a committee like this.”

“It’s clear now, more than ever, that the House is a fixer-upper,” he continued. “Americans deserve a government that works. I am excited to get to work with my Democratic colleagues who got appointed to the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress and look forward to the appointment of Republicans in the coming days. 

“My colleagues bring diverse backgrounds and perspectives to the Committee, and they have a proven track record of increasing transparency in government.  Soon the Committee will work across the aisle to create bipartisan, lasting change to modernize Congress and get it working for the people again,” he said.

Speaker Pelosi added, “It is a great privilege to name these outstanding Members of Congress to the House’s new Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.”

“Our new Members are pioneers and innovators with proven track records of achievement in making our institution more transparent, unifying and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the American people,” the speaker said.  “With Congressman Kilmer at the head of the table, this Select Committee will strengthen and reinvigorate our institution, advancing a House of Representatives that is diverse, dynamic, oriented toward the future and committed to delivering results.”

On Feb. 12, Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., was named Republican leader and co-chair of the bipartisan committee.

The other 10 members are Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Rodney Davis, R-Ill, Susan Brooks, R-Ind., Rob Woodall, R-Ga., Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pa., William Timmons, R-S.C., Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., and Mark Pocan, D-Wis.

Over the course of the past year, the committee has released 29 bipartisan recommendations to improve the operations of the House.

As it stands now, the Select Committee’s final report must be submitted at the end of the year.

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