Center for American Progress

: A Proposal to Make Congress Work Again
Past Event

A Proposal to Make Congress Work Again

A Panel Discussion on Proposed Changes in the Rules and Procedures of the U.S. House of Representatives

12:00 AM - 11:59 PM EST

The Center for American Progress invites you to a special presentation:

A Proposal to Make Congress Work Again
A Panel Discussion on Proposed Changes in the Rules and Procedures of the U.S. House of Representatives

Growing public concern about government policies ranging from disaster relief to prescription drugs, the war in Iraq and mounting budget deficits are also raising questions about the process the government is using to make policy decisions. The recent string of revelations about misconduct of officials in both the legislative and executive branches has further heightened concern about how public business is now being conducted.

Four prominent members of the U.S. House of Representatives who have spent their careers looking not only for the best policies but also for ways to improve the way Congress makes policies have come together around a set of reforms in House Rules to limit the influence of lobbyists, increase fiscal responsibility, curb abuses of power, end the 2 day work week, allow members to know what is in the legislation they are voting on before they cast their votes and allow full and open debate in conference committees where much of the real work of legislating takes place.

They will unveil their package of institutional reforms for the first time at a luncheon panel discussion held at the Center for American Progress on Monday, December 5, 2005. Norman Ornstein, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of the forthcoming book Broken Branch, and Scott Lilly, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, will join them.

A symposium held last August by the Center for American Progress and the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University highlighted the shifting relationship between the Congress and the Executive Branch and the declining role of the House of Representatives as a forum for debate and consideration of the major issues facing the American people. Observations offered over the course of the symposium included:

“the centralization of power in the White House is antithetical to the very nature of the system of government we live under and the failure of the Congress to insist on and enforce by any means necessary its authority is a serious threat to the continued functioning of the very system that has kept America free for more than two centuries…what is needed is serious surgery: the Congress needs a backbone.”
— Mickey Edwards, former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma

There “is a sharp decline in the deliberative process at almost every level. The nature of the schedule, the way in which committees and floor procedure have played out, a lack of interest in working through legislation so that you get good legislation even if it takes a little longer…a decline in respect for regular order.”
— Norm Ornstein, Resident Scholar American Enterprise Institute

We have an “Invisible Congress.”
— Andrew Rudalevige, Author, “The New Imperial Presidency”

“Committee hearings have become sort of PR events.”
— Walter Pincus, Reporter, Washington Post

David Broder wrote a column following the Symposium entitled, “Back Seat Congress” in which he concluded:

“The result is that a system of government in which Congress was supposed to be ‘the first branch’ is — as this week once again has demonstrated — one in which the lawmakers are thoroughly overshadowed by the magnified figure of the president.”

Congressmen Obey, Frank, Price and Allen are attempting to address those problems by making it more difficult to circumvent the rules and procedures that have been in place for many years but which have been circumvented more and more frequently in recent years. They are also offering new rules that will insure more openness in the legislative process, more debate about decisions being made in Congress and greater opportunity for Congress to play an oversight role which will make the executive branch truly accountable to the country for the actions, policies and expenditures of tax money they make on behalf of the American people.

The Center for American Progress hopes that at a very minimum their proposal will spark renewed interest and debate over the role of Congress and the procedures by which government decisions are reached.



Text of Proposal, authored by Congressmen Obey, Frank, Price and Allen

Intro from John Podesta
•  Moderator Scott Lilly
•  Rep. David Obey
•  Rep. Barney Frank
•  Rep. David Price
•  Rep. Tom Allen
•  Norm Ornstein
•  Panel Discussion and Q&A Session

Note: All video provided in  QuickTime (MPEG-4)  format.

Congressman David Obey (D-WI), Ranking Member, Committee on Appropriations
Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), Ranking Member, Committee on Financial Services
Congressman David Price (D-NC), Member, Committee on Appropriations
Congressman Tom Allen (D-ME), Member, Committee on Energy and Commerce
Norm Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute; Coauthor, Broken Branch

Moderated by:
Scott Lilly, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

Monday, December 5, 2005
Program: 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM
Lunch will be served at 11:30 AM.
Admission is free.

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