Reps. Lipinski and LaHood Lead Bipartisan Effort to Make Congress Work

Congressmen Dan Lipinski (IL-3) and Darin LaHood (IL-18) have introduced legislation designed to make Congress work again for the American people.  H. Con. Res. 28 would establish a Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, a powerful legislative tool that Congress effectively employed three times in the 20th century to overcome legislative dysfunction.  This bipartisan, bicameral committee would be tasked with analyzing suggestions from congressional experts and the general public, and then making recommendations for reforming congressional procedures so that Congress could more effectively address major issues faced by our nation.

“When I was a teacher, I taught about how Congress operates, but it doesn’t take a congressional scholar to understand that the Legislative Branch is not working effectively for the American people,” said Rep. Lipinski.  “Americans understand that the legislative process is not working effectively when they see Congress failing to act to address major issues until faced with a crisis; even then Congress waits until the last minute to act or sometimes even fails to act as we saw with the government shutdown a few years ago.  In order to conduct the peoples’ business more effectively, Congress must streamline rules and procedures, improve efficiency in the committees and on the floor of the House and Senate, increase participation of the members in the legislative process, and encourage bipartisan cooperation.  Hopefully, this Joint Committee would be a good step in creating a Congress that works for the American people.”

The Joint Committee would be made up of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, 12 members of the House and 12 members of the Senate, with a specific mandate to make recommendations across the spectrum of needed change in a timely fashion.  The Joint Committee would focus on restoring Congress’ ability to fulfill its basic responsibilities, including oversight, authorizations, appropriations, legislation, and passing a budget.  Specifically, the Joint Committee would first look to overhaul the legislative rules and procedures that internally dictate how Congress operates.  Then it would work to empower legislators to take ownership of the legislative process, debate issues, introduce amendments, and get laws enacted.  Finally, the Joint Committee would make recommendations to improve the relationship between the people and Congress.  The process would be open to the public and could draw on the expertise and experiences of the private sector.

 “Congress must earn America’s trust back,” stated Rep. LaHood.  “At this pivotal time in our nation’s history, the Legislative Branch must function effectively to address the challenges we face.  No matter how good our intentions, noble our cause, or hard we work, problems won’t be solved if the institution doesn’t function.  There is a plethora of reform ideas, but there is not an official mechanism to motivate Congress to evaluate those recommendations holistically, transparently, and speedily. This bill is a simple first step towards addressing the dysfunction that the American people see and what we, as Representatives, experience in Congress.  Whether reform requires changes in law, like evaluating the budget process, changes in procedure such as committee structure, or changes in the operation between the House, the Senate, and the White House, we need to take a hard look at what systemic improvements are necessary to overcome gridlock, to govern effectively, and restore America’s confidence in our first branch of our government.”

Joint Committees on Congress have been created at crucial periods before, and have yielded real results.  The Joint Committee of 1945, 1965, and 1992 each ultimately resulted in necessary reforms that were adopted in the form of Legislative Reorganization Acts.  These Joint Committees were formed at quarter century intervals, and it’s been 25 years since the last Joint Committee convened. 

The measure already enjoys a broad coalition of support from former members of Congress, bipartisan groups focused on congressional reform, and other interested stakeholders.

“The formation of a Joint Committee to reform Congress is a great step toward eliminating the gridlock and hyper partisanship that has infected Congress for too long and prevented our country from moving forward,” said Mark Strand, president of the Congressional Institute.  “Through the reforms a Joint Committee will be empowered to recommend, the bill-making process can be opened up to more lawmakers so they can truly fulfill their duties as legislators.  A Joint Committee can also help repair the broken budget process and revitalize the standing committees in the U.S. House and Senate so they function as intended.  Significant reforms to the rules and structures will allow lawmakers to better serve their constituents and give America the Congress it deserves.”

“We welcome the introduction of the Congress of Tomorrow resolution as the starting point of a discussion on restoring the legislative abilities of Congress,” said the Bipartisan Policy Center.  “We look forward to working with Reps. LaHood and Lipinski to ensure its prompt consideration.” 

“It is time for Congress to re-examine its structure, processes, and operations through a Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress,” stated the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF).  “For nearly 40 years the CMF has conducted a significant amount of research with congressional offices, Members, staff, and institutional offices.  A thoughtful, bipartisan effort aimed at improving the institution would result in a better Congress, better laws, and better service to the American people.  CMF applauds Representatives Darin LaHood and Dan Lipinski for calling for a Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress.”

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