WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Darin LaHood (IL-18) and Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-03) today announced that have introduced a measure to initiate congressional reform with wide bipartisan support. H. Con. Res 28 would establish a Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, a powerful legislative tool that Congress has effectively employed three times in the 20th century, roughly every 25 years, to overcome dysfunction and improve the operation of Congress. This bipartisan, bicameral committee would be composed of 24 members from the House and the Senate tasked with analyzing ideas for reform and reporting their findings and suggestions to the full Congress. Forty-four members of the United States House of Representatives have cosponsored the bill.
Congressman LaHood stated, “Congress must earn America’s trust back. 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.”
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. 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. The process would be open to the public and could draw on the expertise and experiences of the private sector.
“Although I used to teach college students how Congress operates, it doesn’t take a student of Congress to understand that the legislative body is not working effectively for the American people,” said Congressman Lipinski. "In order to change this, Congress must streamline its rules and procedures, improve efficiency in committees and on the floor of the House and Senate, increase participation of members in the legislative process, and encourage bipartisan cooperation. This joint committee could be the first step to creating a better Congress that works for the American people.”
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 a Legislative Reorganization Acts. These Joint Committees were formed a quarter century intervals, and it’s been 25 years since the last Joint Committee convened.
H. Con. Res. 28 enjoys a broad coalition of support from former members, bipartisan groups focused on congressional reform, and members in leadership.
Mark Strand, president of the Congressional Institute, stated, "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 prevents our country from moving forward. 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 U.S. 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."
Michele Nellenbach, Senior Vice President of Public Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center said, “BPC welcomes the introduction of the Congress of Tomorrow resolution as the starting point of a discussion on restoring the legislative abilities of Congress. We look forward to working with Reps LaHood and Lipinski to ensure its prompt consideration.”
Congressional Management Foundation stated, “It is time for Congress to re-examine its structure, processes, and operations through a Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. For nearly 40 years the Congressional Management Foundation 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.”