The following proposal appears capable of creating significant reform of congress, bringing the existing tyrannical conditions closer to the ideally responsive, representative, government. Read this document carefully, and if you feel this has merit, I strongly urge you to send it along with evidence of your endorsement to this program to your own congressman and senators. At the end there is a place for you to enter your name, which will be added to a list of signatories agreeing to this, and at some time when and if there is sufficient grass roots public support, will be presented to Congress as a petition.
If the House of Representatives is to satisfy a 21st- century America, it must:reflect the people's diversity, be more democratic INTERNALLY, allow and encourage real debate, protect the rights of opinions that are in the minority, and again become chief federal policy maker. Meeting those standards - for a "mediating institution" that also happens to be the national legislature - would enhance economic growth and political civility, and in the process regain the respect of voters. But tough standards require real work, so here are concrete steps to get from here to there:
The House should be led by a Reform Speaker dedicated to guaranteeing open and healthy debate. Contemplate this stark but little-known fact:
The Constitution does not require the Speaker to be a Member of
If no Member can effectively lead such a crusade, a non-member should be elected speaker to reform the institution and restore the House to its appropriate role.
Abolish the seniority system. In an era of rapid change, it's the lesser risk to reduce stability and institutionalization in favor of greater openness to technology, talent and national needs.
The number and function of committees should be reduced drastically - leaving
fewer than 10 standing committees.In a reformed House, permanent committees would
A Revenues Committee (some of Ways & Means's duties)
A Spending Committee (Appropriations and Budget)
An International Security Committee (Defense and Intelligence)
A Human Resources Committee (Education, Labor &Health)
An Economic Resources Committee (Commerce, Banking, Housing)
A Natural Resources Committee (Agriculture, Interior,Energy)
The Procedures Committee (Rules, House Administration)and
The Credential and Ethics Committee
All Members should vote to elect members of all committees. Thus the personal-power goals of senior Members would be replaced with leadership responsibility and responsiveness to the membership of the House.
Membership on any one committee should be limited to 10years.
Members elected to committees should elect their own sub-committee and committee chairpersons by secret ballot. Such a system would make the committee leadership more responsive to the membership, and less so to outside interests or to centralized leaders.
The Rules Committee (Procedures Committee) should be composed of an equal number of Members from both parties selected by random drawing for a single two-year term. Design rules and schedule bills to enhance fair and open debate. The needs of any party should be pursued through debate and amendments, not through control for the legislative process. Rules to limit amendments would require support from three-fifths of all Members.
The Credentials and Ethics Committee should also be composed of an equal number of Members from each party, selected by random drawing plus one additional Member from the minority party to guard against the tyranny of the majority.
All officers of the House - the Clerk, Sergeant-at-Arms,Administrator, etc. - should be elected by all Members and serve no more than 10 years, subject to removal by a vote of no-confidence supported by one-third of the Membership.
All Committee and subcommittee hearings, and Floor debates, should be publicly announced at least one month in advance, to allow public awareness and opinion to surface. Right now, only the Washington-based organized groups know, with any reliability,about debate and hearing schedules; they therefore wield more influence than the public. More input from the public, not less, is needed to restore the House's reputation.
A reformed House needs better and more accurate information. To complement the functions of the Library of Congress and the General Accounting Office (both to be governed by the Procedures Committee's bipartisan Members), two independent (but partisan) Institutes should be created. Like the Rand Corporation's work for the Department of Defense, these Institute's should conduct policy research, public judgment analysis and option-designing under the guidance of their respective party leaderships, to find innovative solutions to complex national problems.Finally, to bring about House reform, the public needs to establish new criteria for electing members.. Candidates should be dedicated to real reform and want to be a national legislator -rather than a super-alderman who claims to be bringing home more pork than the area should justifiably receive.Another voter stipulation for candidates from this point on: That they commit to radical reform of both the redistricting and campaign laws.
The test question for such candidates:
Are they willing to PLEDGE their support for a REFORM SPEAKER?
This might require supporting a non-Member for Speaker, if no incumbent stands as a fair arbiter dedicated to the adoption of reformed rules that encourage debate and the protection of opinions that are in the minority.This vision of House Reform reflects the diversity of the nation and makes it a recognized asset, and then designs a national legislative approach to harness this resource. It would not make individual Members or parties more powerful, but would give the people greater control over Congress. Though procedural manipulation would not be as prevalent or effective as it is today, the mediating nature of Congress would be restored and national policy-making could be accomplished Instead of the Speaker playing a Rival President, he or she would become the arbiter of fair and open debate that allows the voice of the people to regain control of their government.
Jerry Climer - President The Congressional Institute Incorporated (c) Jerry Climer1992 The Congressional Institute Inc.
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