Democrats and Republicans Agree to Amend Congress and are Working on It

Surrounded by applauding Republicans, Kevin McCarthy reached out to shake hands with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy greets Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick after becoming Speaker of the House on the 15th ballot on Jan. 7, right center, California. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

House Republicans who blocked Kevin McCarthy’s promotion to chairman repeated a mantra during a four-day leadership battle that ended after several deals: Congress is ‘broken,’ they said .

It may sound like a topic that has been recycled year after year to beat the other side.

But every day, as right-wing Republicans stood under the glare of the TV lights on the House floor, 12 other Congressmen who had just spent four years addressing some of the same issues were in the room. sat scattered around.

It may be news to many Americans that it’s not a partisan idea to think Congress needs a fix. It’s not just ultraconservative Republicans who believe it’s necessary. So do the Democrats.

Members of both parties have some of the same ideas on how to do this. It took years to find consensus and happened away from the spotlight.

Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries and Rep. Nancy Pelosi talk to each other in the House seat.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) on the House floor on Jan. 6. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

In 2019, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) established a bipartisan commission to “modernize Congress.” It’s not just technology updates.committee too Aimed at Amidst partisan polarization and stalemate, “the inability to pass important legislation, low public support, high partisanship, and a general sense that the organization could do a better job for the American people. there is a belief.

In the process, the committee realized that one of the reasons parliament was not functioning was that the chairman’s office and party leaders controlled almost everything too much. This is one of the key criticisms made by Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, and several others who have elicited concessions from McCarthy in the leadership battle.

“Over the last few decades, power has been concentrated in leadership rather strongly. [Democratic] The leadership was like, “We can make some changes here.”

Timmons and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), who chaired the committee, told Yahoo News in a joint interview. The committee he was created to last for two years, and he was renewed for two more years, is now abolished and Republicans control the House.

Congressman Derek Kilmer walks past the column with his cell phone.

Congressman Derek Kilmer, D. Washington at the US Capitol in April 2022.

Nevertheless, the committee made great efforts to promote cross-party cooperation. It was created with equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. A two-thirds majority was required for the recommendation to pass.

Even the hearings were physically set up to foster bipartisan cooperation. Instead of Republicans and Democrats sitting on opposite sides of the room, as is usually the case at hearings, all seats alternated. The members of the committee were also seated in a round table format, with everyone sitting on the same floor rather than on multi-level pedestals so they could all look into each other’s eyes.

The Commission has precedent. Nine times in the last 100 years, Congress has created some kind of panel to propose institutional reform.

This time, a new commission emerged from informal conversations among disgruntled lawmakers in 2018.

“We were having these conversations about potential ways to democratize parliamentary work, empower lawmakers more and hopefully reduce dysfunction,” Kilmer said. “There were conservatives. There were progressives. There were moderates.

The 118th House of Representatives is sworn in by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Members of the 118th Congress will be sworn in by Speaker McCarthy on January 6th.

The group found that the causes of parliamentary dysfunction fall into several different areas. Non-competitive salaries for staff encouraged the most talented individuals to go to other sectors, including the lobbyist shop.

However, they also noted that some members of Congress resorted to outrageous actions because they had no other way of receiving attention or admiration.

“Members of Congress feel increasingly sidelined from the legislative process,” he said. Commission final report, was published in December. “Without being able to play a substantive role in legislative negotiations, some have questioned the value of the commission’s work and are looking for alternative ways to participate in the process.”

Both Kilmer and Timmons traced the transition of power from commission to leadership that goes back decades.

The 1974 class joined to reform parliament and targeted “what was seen as excessive power given to the chairman of the committee,” Kilmer said. I suggested some changes in hopes of bringing more power, but that’s not what actually happened.You started to see more power in the Speaker’s office.It’s the Speaker. was put on steroids under [Newt] Gingrich. ”

Rep. Newt Gingrich with pepper and salt hair raises his right hand.

On January 4, 1995, Georgia Republican Rep. Newt Gingrich becomes Speaker of the House. (Joe Marquette/AP Photo)

Timmons also agrees: They thought they made a change for the better, but I think everyone now looks back and says, ‘Oh, that was a bad change. ”

The concentration of power in the leadership has turned many lawmakers on the sidelines, and some have gravitated towards performance politics, according to the commission’s report. “For better or worse, social media and cable news provide easy outlets for members wanting to make their policy views known.”

The Commission’s recommendations for strengthening the Commission, in addition to going to the floor and voting, are to ensure that members do not have to choose a hearing or to vacillate between multiple hearings. revolves around adjusting the

“If you want the committee to be a place where people can develop their policy expertise, where they can actually discuss ideas, where people can defend their ideas, and perhaps solve some issues together, then the committee It means that should stop existing, a place where you can hang in the air for five minutes, give a speech on social media, and then move to one of the other three committees you’re on at the same time.” says Kilmer. “Therefore, we made recommendations about resolving schedule and calendar conflicts and, quite frankly, increasing our presence in DC.”

These ideas have not yet been adopted. But of the 200 recommendations, “45 were fully implemented and 87 were partially implemented,” Kilmer said.

The cooperative spirit of the exercise was transmitted to the members. Timmons, who represented his second-most conservative constituency in South Carolina and voted against certifying the 2020 election results, said that even after the Jan. 6 riots, Pelosi’s approval and Without support, he said, nothing would have happened to reform Congress. , ex-speaker.

“Without her, it wouldn’t exist,” he said.