As the 112th Congress passes its first quarter mark, all House committees are complying with a new requirement that they file their “Survey of Activities” four times during the Congress rather than just once at its conclusion. A committee’s Survey contains vital information regarding the work of each committee and how it is conducting its business. The more frequent reports will give everyone the opportunity to review each committee’s progress. The Rules Committee’s first quarter survey, filed today, provides the proof that the GOP Majorities promises of greater openness and transparency are being kept.
From the outset, Rules Committee Chairman Dreier and the Committee’s new and returning Majority members put an emphasis on transparency and accountability. For the first time, cameras were installed in the committee room and broadcasts of each and every hearing were made available on the committee website and the in-House cable system. Furthermore, the committee’s web site was updated to reflect the enhanced transparency requirements approved in the 112th Congress’ Opening Day Rules Package; chief among them — the 3-day layover requirement. The Rules Committee web site has become the go-to destination for the business of the House.
As was promised, the Committee has also worked hard to open up floor debate by approving six modified open rules (only requiring “pre-printing” of amendments in the Congressional Record), including for H.R. 1, and one completely open rule for consideration on the floor. Through May 31, 2011 (the time period covered by the first survey) the House considered 437 amendments, more than half of the 810 considered in the entire two years of the previous Congress. During the month of June, those numbers have only increased. This month, the Rules Committee has approved 3 more open rules and 95 more amendments have been considered on the House floor.
The survey also includes the views of the Minority Members of the Committee, as is required and appropriate. Putting aside their criticism of our agenda, which is to be expected, their views focus on the true minutiae of committee practice while ignoring their own record from the last congress, another indication of the positive sea change during the 112th.
One of their primary complaints is the consideration of the H. Con. Res. 34, the FY 2012 Budget. Their continued attacks on the substance of the budget masks the fact that their Majority failed to even propose a budget, let alone consider one or allow for alternatives as the current Majority did. They also argue the current Rules Committee Majority has waived all points of order against multiple bills. What they fail to point out is that this kind of waiver is standard and has been employed by previous Majorities of both parties. The difference in the 112th is that a detailed explanation of any actual waiver of a rule is included in every rule report and as easy to read tables in the Survey of Activities.
The 112th Congress has a great deal of work ahead and remains focused on creating jobs and economic growth, as well as reducing the size and scope of the federal government. What’s clear from the first round of Activity Reports is that committees are conducting that work in a more open and transparent way.