CONGRESSIONAL REFORM FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

Committee Hears Case for More Efficiency, Civility, Productivity


WASHINGTON – The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday provided a forum for discussion about how to break the gridlock that currently defines Congress so the institution works more productively for the American people.

At a hearing entitled “Raising the Bar for Congress: Reform Proposals for the 21st Century,” witnesses testified about proposed legislation that would prohibit members of Congress from being paid if they did not pass a budget and appropriations bills on time; convert the Congressional budget process to a biennial cycle; and reform the way Presidential nominations are vetted and voted upon in the Senate.

“As we consider these reform proposals, we need to draw the distinction between partisanship and a winner-take-all mentality that considers compromise a dirty word and makes legislative gridlock practically inevitable,” said Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., “Partisanship and ideology have been a part of American democracy since our beginning. But our forefathers did not let their competing partisan loyalties and often strongly held competing views prevent them from reaching the kind of compromises that were so central to our nation’s formation and the progress we have made since then.” 

Committee Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, said: “With enormous problems facing our country and Congress having little to show by way of accomplishments, we are right to turn a spotlight on how Congress can accomplish more and bicker less.  I strongly support efforts to bring more civility to Congress and the potential improvement such civility could bring.  Despite rules, bans, and pledges, however, I believe that Members have always been and will always be restrained primarily by their own decency and their commitment to their voters, their country, and our Constitution.” 

Former Congressman Tom Davis and scholar Bill Galston, two co-founders of the nonpartisan group No Labels, advocated for the “No Budget, No Pay” proposal. Also testifying were Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in favor of biennial budgeting, and Senator Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Congressman Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., who have introduced versions of the No Budget, No Pay Act.  Donald Wolfensberger, director of the Congress Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, provided non-partisan analysis of the three bills and additional proposals for congressional reform.

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