Researcher and Writer in Washington, DC

OK, so the House wants to reform itself? Here’s what it should really do

Early this month, on the opening day of the 116th Congress, something unusual happened: The House of Representatives took a step to reform itself. Legislators approved a package of rules changes to fix some of its more glaring problems. Some of these are long overdue: As of Jan. 4, representatives can no longer sit on corporate boards while in office, and members are now officially prohibited from sleeping with their staff.

Even more promising, and potentially more ambitious, is another plan the House set in motion: A new bipartisan committee to fix Congress, which has not been done since the early 1990s. Early signs are good: It passed by a near-unanimous vote; its chair, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D- Wash.), has been pushing for House reform for years; and at least two of the members will be freshmen, who have not been co-opted into the House’s current dysfunctional ways.

It’s called the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, and its job, at the narrowest level, is “investigate, study, make findings, hold public hearings, and develop recommendations on modernizing Congress.” But what it’s really doing is developing the means for the House to better fulfill its role as one half of the first branch of government—the body that makes America’s laws, sets America’s budget and is most closely connected to its citizens…. (Read more)

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