Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks

Representing the 5th District of Indiana
Twitter icon
Facebook icon
YouTube icon
Instagram icon

Brooks Announces Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress Adopts Recommendations to Make Congress Work Better for the People

Sep 25, 2020
News Releases

WASHINGTON -- Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks (R-IN05) provided the following statement yesterday after the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress passed its final recommendations to make Congress more effective, efficient, and transparent for all Americans:

"As a member of the Select Committee, which consists of six Republicans and six Democrats, I am extremely proud this bipartisan group of members unanimously passed a total of 97 recommendations to improve the way the House of Representatives works for the American people. One of the reasons I ran for Congress in 2012 was to work towards restoring confidence in Congress. Since my first election, I have strived to be a leader who promotes civility and cooperation across party-lines. Over the past 18 months we developed strong bipartisan recommendations that will strengthen the working relationships and civility within Congress. Other important recommendations include reclaiming constitutional authorities to make Congress work better. Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to tax and spend – or the ‘power of the purse’ – arguably one of the body’s most essential constitutional responsibilities. By setting up a program, such as the Community-Focused Grant Program, we would enhance Congress’ ability to exercise this authority to appropriate federal funds. This competitively awarded grant program would fund projects that have the broad support of local communities throughout the United States.”

 

. SWB

Click here to watch Rep. Brooks and other committee members speak about the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress’ work to provide these recommendations.

 

swb

Click here to watch Rep. Brooks give remarks on the final passage of recommendations in today’s hearing.

 

Background:

Summary of the recommendations passed by the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress:

Making Congress More Effective, Efficient and Transparent

  1. Streamline the bill-writing process to save time and reduce mistakes.
  2. Finalize a new system that allows the American people to easily track how amendments change legislation and the impact of proposed legislation to current law.
  3. Make it easier to know who is lobbying Congress and what they’re lobbying for.
  4. One-click access to a list of agencies and programs that have expired and need Congressional attention.
  5. One-click access to see how Members of Congress vote in committees.

Streamline and Reorganize House Human Resources

  1. Creating a one-stop shop Human Resources HUB for Member, committee, and leadership staff.
  2. Making permanent the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
  3. Examining and updating the staff payroll system from monthly to semimonthly.
  4. Raising the cap on the number of staff in Member offices.
  5. Regularly surveying staff on improving pay and benefits.

Overhaul the Onboarding Process and Provide Continuing Education for Members

  1. Allowing newly-elected Members to hire and pay one transition staff member.
  2. Offering new-Member orientation in a nonpartisan way.
  3. Making new-Member orientation more comprehensive.
  4. Promoting civility during new-Member orientation.
  5. Creating a Congressional Leadership Academy to offer training for Members.
  6. Making cybersecurity training mandatory for Members.

Modernize and Revitalize House Technology

  1. Reestablishing and restructuring an improved Office of Technology Assessment.
  2. Improving IT services in the House by reforming House Information Resources (HIR).
  3. Requiring House Information Resources (HIR) to prioritize certain technological improvements.
  4. Requiring House Information Resources (HIR) to reform the approval process for outside technology vendors.
  5. Requiring House Information Resources (HIR) to allow Member offices to test new technologies.
  6. Creating one point of contact for technology services for each Member office.
  7. Creating a customer service portal to improve technology services in the House.
  8. Leveraging bulk purchasing of the House by removing technology costs out of Member offices’ budgets and moving into a centralized account.
  9. Prioritizing a “rapid response” program at the Congressional Research Service for nonpartisan fact sheets on key issues.
  10. Developing a constituent engagement and services best practices HUB for Members.

Make the House Accessible to all Americans

  1. Improving access to congressional websites for individuals with disabilities.
  2. Requiring all broadcasts of House proceedings to provide closed caption service.
  3. Requiring a review of the Capitol complex to determine accessibility challenges for individuals with disabilities.

Encouraging Civility and Bipartisanship in Congress

  1. Create a bipartisan Members-only space in the Capitol to encourage more collaboration across party lines.
  2. Institute biennial bipartisan retreats for Members and their families at the start of each Congress.
  3. Update committee policies to increase bipartisan learning opportunities for staff.
  4. Establish bipartisan committee staff briefings and agenda-setting retreats to encourage better policy making and collaboration among Members.

Streamlining Processes and Saving Taxpayer Dollars

  1. Update House procedures to allow members to electronically add or remove their name as a bill cosponsor.
  2. Require Members to undergo emergency preparedness training to ensure our government is fully prepared in the event of a crisis.
  3. Identify ways the House and Senate can streamline purchases and save taxpayer dollars.
  4. Encourage House-wide bulk purchasing of goods and services to cut back on waste and inefficiency.
  5. Update travel expenditure policies to improve efficiencies, and boost accountability and transparency.

Increasing the Quality of Constituent Communication

  1. Consolidate the regulations governing Member office communications, including digital communications, into one easy to find place.
  2. Rename the House Commission on Mailing Standards, also known as the Franking Commission, the House Communications Standards Commission to reflect 21st Century communications.
  3. Increase opportunities for constituents to communicate with their Representatives.
  4. Increase accountability and tracking for all Member-sponsored communications mail.
  5. Allow for faster correspondence between Representatives and their constituents.
  6. Update House social media rules to allow for better communication online between Members of Congress and their followers.
  7. Allow the public to better access and view the types of communication sent by Members of Congress to their constituents. 

Continuity of Operations

  1. Each office should have a continuity of operations plan, including minimum safety requirements and an emergency communications plan, that is made available to all staff so offices continue functioning for the public.
  2. Ensure that staff have the most up-to-date technology and equipment to continue effectively working on behalf of constituents in the event of a disruption or emergency.
  3. Establish regular maintenance plans for office technology, so the equipment and technology needed during remote operations and telework is functional.
  4. Crisis communications guidelines for constituent communication, including outreach plans for extended telework periods, should be approved and shared with all Member offices.
  5. To help streamline casework requests and help constituents better access federal agencies and resources, the House should implement a secure document management system, and provide digital forms and templates for public access.
  6. The House should prioritize the approval of platforms that staff need for effective telework, and each individual staff member should have licensed access to the approved technology.
  7. Committees should establish telework policies on a bipartisan basis.
  8. The House should make permanent the option to electronically submit committee reports.
  9. Expand the use of digital signatures for a majority of House business, including constituent communications.
  10. Committees should develop bipartisan plans on how technology and innovative platforms can be best incorporated into daily work.
  11. A bipartisan, bicameral task force should identify lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and recommend continuity of Congress improvements.
  12. Continuity, telework and cybersecurity training should be given to all new Members of Congress.

Improve the Congressional Schedule and Calendar

  1. Establish specific committee-only meeting times when Congress is in session.
  2. Create a common committee calendar portal to help with scheduling and reduce conflicts.
  3. Establish specific days – or weeks – where committee work takes priority.
  4. Ensure there are more work days spent working than traveling.
  5. The congressional calendar should accommodate a bipartisan member retreat.

Boost Congressional Capacity

  1. Offer staff certifications, in additions to trainings, through the nonpartisan Congressional Staff Academy.
  2. Provide institution-wide, standard onboarding training for new employees, including required training.
  3. Remove constituent communications costs from Member office budgets and create a share account for communications.
  4. Revaluate the funding formula and increase the funds allocated to each Member office.
  5. Establish a nonbinding, voluntary pa band system for House staff that includes a salary floor and average salary for each position in Member offices. Regular services should be done to ensure the most up-to-date salary information.
  6. Expand access to health insurance for congressional staff.
  7. Provide more financial stability for congressional staff enrolled in the federal student loan program.
  8. Staff pay should be delinked from Member pay and a new cap specific to staff should be established.
  9. Allow Congressional Member Organizations to access benefits, and hire one intern to help support their work.
  10. Publish a list of active Congressional Member Organizations annually to ensure transparency in the policy making and caucus creation process.

Reclaim Article One Responsibilities

  1. Incentivize committees to experiment with alternative hearing formats to encourage more bipartisan participation.
  2. Committees should hire bipartisan staff approved by both the Chair and Ranking Member to promote strong institutional knowledge, evidence-based policy making, and a less partisan oversight agenda.
  3. Committees should hold bipartisan pre-hearing committee meetings.
  4. Encourage subcommittees to pilot rules changes that could have a positive effect committee-wide.
  5. Bipartisan Member retreats should encourage committee agenda-setting and civil decorum.
  6. Establish committee-based domestic policy CODELs.
  7. To encourage thoughtful debate and deliberation, establish a pilot for weekly Oxford-style debates on the House floor.
  8. Provide Members and staff with training for debate and deliberation skills.
  9. Identify how increased regulatory and legal resources could help strengthen the role of the legislative branch.
  10. Facilitate a true system of checks and balances by ensuring the legislative branch is sufficiently represented in the courts.
  11. Establish a district exchange program to allow Members to use the Members' Representational Allowance for traveling to other Members’ districts.
  12. Increase capacity for policy staff, especially for Committees, policy support organizations and a restored Office of Technology Assessment.
  13. Reduce dysfunction in the annual budgeting process through the establishment of a congressionally-directed program that calls for transparency and accountability, and that supports meaningful and transformative investments in local communities across the United States. The program will harness the authority of Congress under Article One of the Constitution to appropriate federal dollars.

Reform the Budget and Appropriations Process

  1. Require an annual Fiscal State of the Nation.
  2. Require a biennial budget resolution.
  3. Implement a deadline for Congress to complete action on a biennial budget.
  4. Enhance the budget submission process from the executive branch.
  5. Evaluate the effects of the biennial budget process to expediting congressional work.
  6. Strengthen budget enforcement through the reconciliation process.
  7. Allow more information to be included in the budget resolution.

Identify Administrative Inefficiencies

  1. Identify areas in the U.S. Capitol Complex that could benefit from architectural modernization.
  2. Develop a practice of negotiating House district office leases to lower costs, improve consistency of rental rates and save taxpayer dollars.

Improve Technology and Continuity in Congress

  1. Establish a Congressional Digital Services Task Force to examine the need for and role of a specialized group of technologists, designers, and others to support the House’s internal and public facing operations.
  2. Make permanent the Bulk Data Task Force and rename it the Congressional Data Task Force.
  3. Identify changes made to House operations due to the COVID 19 pandemic and determine what – if any – additional changes should be made.