WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman Darin LaHood (IL-18) and Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) introduced legislation to reform Congress. Thirty-seven other members of Congress have already signed on in support. If passed by both the House and Senate, the measure would automatically establish an internally-focused Joint Committee.  Composed of 28 members of Congress from the House and the Senate, the Joint Committee would serve as the mechanism for members of Congress to debate, discuss, and evaluate critical reforms necessary to make the institution more functional and effective at delivering results to the American people.

“I ran for Congress to help reform government, and Congress as an institution is no exception. By introducing this legislation today in a bipartisan fashion, we begin the process of trying to make Congress more efficient, effective, and accountable to taxpayers. Congress simply isn’t getting essential work done. The American public’s distrust of their legislative branch is legitimate, and things have to change,” stated Rep. LaHood. “However, real change requires real actions and real work. That’s why I have joined with my colleague, Rep. Lipinski, to call for the formation of a Joint Committee to reform Congress, pulling together Democrats and Republicans from both the House and the Senate with a mandate to recommend major reforms in a timely fashion. We have the opportunity to restore Congress’ responsiveness to the American people and rebuild their trust. Now is the time to act.”

Numbers show that the dysfunction in Congress has stretched for decades, regardless of which party is in the majority.  The last time all individual appropriation bills were passed separately and on time was 1996—20 years ago. 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 control how Congress functions.  Second, it would work to empower legislators to take ownership of the legislative process, debate issues, introduce amendments and get laws enacted.  Third, the Joint Committee would make recommendations to improve the relationship between the people and Congress. 

Congressman Lipinski, original lead Democrat cosponsor of the measure, stated: “There is no doubt that a few reforms may come with the next Congress, but there is a need right now to make fundamental changes in congressional procedures, legislative process, and political behavior.  In order to conduct the peoples’ business, Congress as an institution must streamline rules and procedures, improve efficiency in the committees and on the floor of the House and Senate, institute regular order as much as possible, increase participation of the members in the legislative process, and encourage bipartisan cooperation.  Congress should also strive to improve relationships among members of the House and Senate, between the House and Senate, and between Congress and the Executive Branch.  Hopefully, this resolution is a first step to creating an environment in which governance is not only possible, but preferable to gridlock and dysfunction.” 

This is not a new idea. Joint Committees on Congress have been created at crucial periods before—and have yielded real results. Throughout its history, Congress has adjusted to changing political terrain by enacting reforms to preserve the integrity and effectiveness of the institution. Congress has undertaken similar efforts four times in the past century, each at about a quarter century interval. The last time such a committee was established was a quarter century ago.

Illinois has a legacy of legislative reform. Rep. LaHood represents the same nine counties Abraham Lincoln represented during his one term in Congress. Central Illinois is also the home of Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen and former House Minority Leader Bob Michel, both strong leaders who worked across the aisle to solve problems for the American people.

H.Con.Res. 169 will next be referred to a House Committee(s) for further evaluation.