In the run-up to the Nov. 2 elections, Rep. John Boehner, the presumptive speaker of the House, pledged to “fix” the way the House works. He aims to do that by empowering committees and making the House more transparent.
Traditionally, committees have been the forges of legislation, performing the yeoman work of crafting and shaping bills. But since the speakership of Republican Newt Gingrich in 1995, this process has increasingly moved behind the closed doors of leadership, turning committees – and lawmakers – into partisan rubber stamps, critics argue.
Mr. Boehner says he wants to reverse this trend.
In a bid to support committee work, GOP leaders promise that votes will no longer be scheduled during morning hours, when most members of the House would normally be in committee hearings – talking to experts and gathering information.
The rules also say that the text of any legislation must be available to members no fewer than 24 hours before it goes into markup – the crucial committee process of amending and revising a draft bill to make it ready for a vote by the full House. Previously, members of Congress would often head into a markup never having read the bill.
Other rule changes: Committee hearings will be webcast, and committees must publish online their votes and the text of amendments. The rules package would also reinstate a six-year term limit on committee chairs. [Editor's note: The original version of this paragraph was updated to reflect House members' decision not to publish online their attendance records on committees.]