On Monday, January 4, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted the Rules of the 117th Congress, reauthorizing the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (“Select Committee”) and implementing a number of changes recommended by the Select Committee in the 116th Congress. The extension allows the Select Committee to continue its work proposing bipartisan reforms to make Congress work better for the American people.
“In the 116th Congress, the Select Committee made significant contributions to make Congress work better for the American people – including a number of recommendations implemented by today’s rules package to make Congress more efficient and effective. As the 117th Congress begins, it is clear that there is still more work to do,” said Chair Derek Kilmer (D-WA). “I’m excited to continue the work to fix Congress and help the institution better serve the folks we represent. I’m grateful to my colleagues, House leadership, civic groups, and the American people for seeing the value of this work and ensuring the progress continues.”
The Rules for the 117th Congress adopted today implement recommendations from the Select Committee to streamline and modernize processes, increase accessibility for constituents, and make Congress better reflect the diversity of the American people, including:
- Making permanent the Office of Diversity and Inclusion;
- Implementing electronic filing of committee reports and allowing electronic signatures;
- Broadening availability and utility of legislative documents in machine-readable formats;
- Advancing the use of comparative prints; and,
- Updating the House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards (now known as the House Communications Standards Commission).
In December, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to extend the committee’s bipartisan work and reappointed Rep. Kilmer to serve as Chair. “As Speaker of the House, it is a privilege to once again appoint Congressman Derek Kilmer as Chairman of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress where he will continue his respected, effective work For The People,” said Speaker Pelosi. “Chairman Kilmer is a leader and innovator, whose integrity and vision have guided the Select Committee in its efforts to advance bipartisan solutions to make the House more transparent, efficient and responsive to the needs of our communities. Strengthened by the historic diversity and dynamism of the 117th Congress, Chairman Kilmer and Members of the Select Committee will continue to champion the best ideas that ensure that the People’s House can carry on its vital work now and for years to come.”
Created by an overwhelming bipartisan vote at the beginning of the 116th Congress, the Select Committee was tasked with crafting recommendations to make Congress work better. Over the last two years, Democrats and Republicans on the Select Committee have worked together to pass 97 recommendations to make Congress more effective, efficient, accessible, and transparent for the American people.
Many outside experts, congressional scholars, and groups committed to congressional reform have shared their support for the committee’s extension. A few highlights can be seen below:
Letter to House leadership signed by more than 50 groups and individuals committed to congressional reform: “We write to encourage the House of Representatives to re-establish the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress in the 117th Congress. The Select Committee made great strides during the 116th Congress toward improving the House of Representatives, as demonstrated by its in-depth hearings and nearly 100 recommendations, many of which were enacted by the House. The Select Committee demonstrated it is an effective model to further reform in the House and we believe it should be afforded the opportunity to build upon its successes and tackle additional issues.”
Meredith McGehee, Executive Director, Issue One: “The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, which was created almost two years ago, was tasked with investigating and improving legislative operations. Despite gridlock in Congress, this bipartisan panel, with six Democrats and six Republicans, issued nearly 100 unanimous recommendations to make the branch more functional, accessible, transparent, representative, and technological. These recommendations were an excellent start toward helping Congress better fulfill its constitutional role. But much more has to be done. Given its limited time, the panel focused on solutions that had strong consensus among members. There is a greater task at hand with how to tackle more controversial, but just as necessary, systemic issues in Congress.”
Michele Stockwell, Senior Vice President, Bipartisan Policy Center: “The Modernization Committee and its members have rightly earned accolades, and their work could not be more important in a time when faith in government institutions is low. We should trust the committee and its members’ judgment that there are significant areas which still require attention, allow them to continue their work, and extend the committee with robust resources in the 117th Congress.”
The Select Committee was tasked to produce recommendations on rules to promote a more modern and efficient Congress; procedures, including the schedule and calendar; policies to develop the next generation of leaders; staff recruitment, diversity, retention, and compensation and benefits; administrative efficiencies, including purchasing, travel, outside services, and shared administrative staff; technology and innovation; and the work of the House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards. On October 14, 2020, the Select Committee released its final report for the 116th Congress, which details all 97 recommendations and the committee’s research, conversations with experts, staff and Members throughout its two-year lifespan. You can read the full report here.
You can learn more about the Select Committee here.
You can follow updates from the Select Committee on Twitter here.