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tv   House Select Committee on Modernization of Congress Hearing on Transparency  CSPAN  May 10, 2019 9:03am-10:52am EDT

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all right. the committee will come to order. the chair is authorized to declare a recess of the committee at any time. this hearing is entitled opening up the process recommendations for making legislative information more transparent. i now recognize myself for five minutes to give an opening statement. i won't use all of it. today we're going to hear from four experts who will discuss kusht transparency efforts under way in the house. the value and challenges of making legislative information more transparent and how sometimes too much transparency may impact the delivery of the process in congress am providing
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access to legislative data is a good idea. ultimately, the people pay for the data congress collects. they should have able to access basic information about what happens, whether following a bill through the access and seeing how we vote in committee. or tracking what bills we sponsor and co-sponsor. it promotes accountability to our constituents and that's a good thing. our goal with each of these hearings is to walk away with recommendations for how to make congress work better so that it can better serve the american people. i'm looking forward to hearing what thoughts and recommendations our witnesses and members of our committee have for making legislative information more transparent and available. i'll invite our vice chair tom graves to share opening remarks. >> welcome to each of our witnesses here today. as we've highlighted in past and other hearings. i.t. modernization to the
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congressional schedule to constituent communications and the legislative process itself. the dwogoal as the chairman sta and outlined the mission state of illinois, we have you dates and improvements to better serve the american people. all the changes we recommend that we hope to recommend are so that we, the members can better serve our constituents in the long run. an important part of representing our constituents is transparency. transparency in our work and in our actions. the hearing today is important in ensuring that the american -- the people's house is transparent and open to the people. part of improving transparency also means that ensuring our constituents receive accurate and truthful information about our work on their behalf. it's critical that any decision made in congress truly benefits those we are here to represent. a lot of transparency focus on what members of congress are up to. that certainly an important piece of what we're talking
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about today. we should explore how it can improve how we do business and execute our responsibilities. we should use these tools to improve the legislation that we create to address some of america's most perplexing problems and challenges that we're facing. i want to thank our witnesses for joining us today, for your insights and what you're about to share with us. we look forward to the conversation. >> yield back to the chair. >> we welcome the testimony of four witnesses, first robert bobb reeves has served as deputy clerk for the u.s. house of representatives since may of 2008. in addition to his clerk duties, he provides oversight for technical projects newer taken by the clerk. he's led initiatives to leead components of the -- provided live streaming video of the -- he leads the bulk data task
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force. promoting the creation of bulk files of legislative data and coordinate transparency efforts across the legislative branch. next, we have daniel shuman who leads demand, progress funds efforts on issues that concern governmental transparency, accountability and promoting an open internet. he co-founded the data coalition bringing together organizations from across the political spectrum to advocate for a tech savvy congress. daniel directs the advisory committee on transparency, supporting the work of the congressional transparency caucus. he's a nationally recognized expert on transparency, accountability and capacity. >> next i'd like to welcome joshua tal berer. about i did i get it? stuck the landing. he's founder of gov track u.s. it provides tracking tools to around 10 million individuals
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annually and has provided bulk legislative information services to dozens of house members and caucus offices. the doctor collaborated to create every crs report.com. he's developed technology for the office of the law revision counsel and the counsel of the district of columbia to improve the publication process of the law and worked on cyber security practices for the department of homeland security. then last, but not least, i'd like to welcome dr. frances lee. she's been a member of the maryland faculty since 2004. she teaches courses in american government, legislative politics, political ambition and political institutions. a research interests focus on american governing institutions especially the united states congress. she serves as co-chair of the presidential task force project
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on congressional reform. she's authored several books about congress, most recently insecure majorities, congress and the perpetual campaign. she received her ph.d. in political science from vanderbilt university and worked on capitol hill as an american political science association congressional fellow. witnesses are reminded that your oral testimony will be limited to five minutes. without objection, your written statements will be made part of the record. mr. reeves, we'll start with you. you're recognized for five minutes to give an oral presentation of your testimony. >> chair kilmer, vice chair graves, members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to testify about the accomplishments and ongoing efforts of the office of the clerk and the bulk data task force to make legislative data easily accessible, accurate, timely, free, reusable and available in standardized machinery -- format. six years ago. hr-5882, legislative appropriations act of 2013 directed the establishment of
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the bulk data task force. the bulk data task force is a partnership of representatives from various legislative branch agencies, such as the house of representatives, the senate, library of cig and the government publishing office that work in a cooperative manner to create openness and transparency goals. daniel and josh, two members of the panel also participate. >> the task force has been -- the committee on house administration and leadership offices. the late chuck turner from the legislative branch subcommittee was an orange co-chair of this group and helped to set the foundation for success. karen haas, our previous clerk, was a great supporter and adviser. our new clerk, cheryl johnson, fully understands the importance of this work and supports our efforts. the bulk data task force started out with a goal of making
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legislative documents that were already available individually, available in bulk data format. along the way, we developed ate new standardized machine readable format, united states markup, uslm. evolved technical relationship in open communication lines among legislative branch entities and civil society groups. we also developed a path forward for remaining house documents that are currently not in our standard data format and experienced some success with transparency projects we have taken on. we have provided the legislative branch subcommittee with progress reports every six months since we started. the office of the clerk has played a role in fostering transparency throughout the responsibilities of the legislative process. in 2013, we developed the bills to be considered side of docks.house.gov a website to provide access to legislative
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proposals, bills, resolutions and amendments. it was not always available to members, staff and the public. we also worked with cha and committee staff to develop the committee repository bringing together committee documents and schedules into a single location. working with the ethics committee, we developed the online, disclosure systems and are currently working on finalizing jack act updates. we're currently working with the house office of legislative counsel on comparative print project and our website redesign is almost complete. we anticipate integrating a new site search capability at the end of june this year. going forward, i see a move toward accessing data via application programmer interface, apis. instead of using bulk data files. and the clerk positioned itself to move in that direction by developing our website using apis. we anticipate beginning to make those apis available both
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internally and to the public by the end of this year. we have already shared the committee repository api to assist the library of congress in their display of combined house and senate committee schedules on congress.gov. there is also a need to look at the whole legislative drafting process from desktop tools through the legislative drafting system to see where to make improvements in the process. thank you for the opportunity to testify. i'd be happy to answer any questions that you might have. >> thank you, mr. reeves. next up, mr. shuman. you've got five minutes. >> thank you, sir. chairman kilmer, vice chairman graves and the esteemed members of the committee. my name is daniel shuman. i'm the policy director. i should start by saying, i am honored to be joined by deputy clerk reeves, by my friend josh tauber and by dr. lee. transparency goes to the heart of democracy and our ideas about fairness. congressional transparency means
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everything from empowering each member of congress to facilitating public participation in the political process. just as there are many types of congressional transparency, so too are there many ways it can be undermined. my tem focuses on four key challenges. the challenges are, insufficient context for dleliberation. insufficient implement takes of transparency rules, lapses in transparency practices and unequal -- >> it sound grim but it will not be a grim present tapings. the best kind of trans parn sio curse when they can -- they can hear all the views from the interested parties and dplib rate in public and when appropriate in private. this is the ideal. the first key challenge to transparency arises from an insufficient context for deliberati
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deliberation. you should be able to click on a mouse and see how an amendment would change ail bill. such a comparison can be time consuming to generate. technology can fix this. committee members should have sufficient notice of what's on the docket at a markup. they need to be able to review the draft legislation and amendments to understand what they're going to consider. technology can fix this as welt. and the public should be able to easily see when all the committees are meeting and what they're considering. we're not quite there yet. technology can also help with this. the second key challenge to transparency arises from the insufficient implementation of transparency rules. for example, public witness information which i filled out yesterday, contained in witness disease closure forms should be maintained in a central database. sur currently, they're done separately. committee roll call votes should be tracked in a central database alongside the text of the amendments under consideration. currently votes and successful amendments are published on
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individual committee websites in an uncoordinated fashion. the third challenge arises from lapses in best transparency practic practices. for example, the house inspector general used to public all reports online. starting in the mid-2000s, the ig took down hundreds of reports and stopped publicly releasing some. the public should be allowed to attend like here today. some committees held open proceedings in the skiff where the public and the press are not allowed. the fourth key challenge arises from unequal access to information. many documents are de facto available to the public but only if you're able to pay. for example, crs reports have long been in this category where you had to pay a private vendor for access. congress has partially fixed this for current reports. hasn't addressed it for historical reports. similarly, you can -- there's no
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official source to obtain them. you can buy transcripts of proceedings, but if you want the official transcript, it's not unusual to wait for months. unofficial transcripts should be published within 24 hours. i don't want to leave you with the impression that we haven't made real progress, because we have. in fact, congress and this house in particular has made significant and transformative progress in bringing transparency to the institution. most important of these efforts over the last decade have been the bulk data task force which depply clerk bob -- deputy clerk reeves facilitates. it's in collaboration with the public and across internal congressional silos, it has been a tremendous success. thank youment. i listed the major accomplishments in my written because there's not enough time to go through them all. the role should be expanded. in addition, someone should have the job of thinking about how
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legislative information is made available to the public. one possible approach is the creation of a chief data officer for the data branch. i'm encouraged by the work of your committee, by your thoughtful deliberations and looking forward to our conversation on improving legislative transparency. >> thank you. >> thank you. chairman kilmer, vice chair graves, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak her today and your interest in transparency. i'm the founder and president of gcht ov track.us. my organization helps almost 10 million individual each year learn about the work of united states congress. our website is a free legislative tracking tool used by journalists, students, advocates, members of your staff and members of the general public. we explain legislation, we predict the likelihood they'll be enacted.
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17 years ago when i was starred in this field, transparency in congress looked different than it does today. for a college class in 2001, i was amazed how much information congress put online. but i had so many questions that the information didn't answer. for instance, who were the sponsors that were introducing the most ip legislation? and when the information was available, it wasn't always understandable. i e-mailed the library of congress, the steward of the legislative data and asked them if they could share their database of legislative information. a list of bills, a spreadsheet of co-sponsors. they declined. frustrated, i spent the next 15 years building the most detailed detailed database and made it freely available for anyone to read. to do that, i wrote software that gathered legislative information automatically so while i was finishing my graduate degree, my software was adding more and more information
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into the database. i used that to build my -- gov track.us. mr. reeves led a coalition known as the house bulk data task force creating an official version of what i had created. so i deleted mine. now gov track uses the official one instead. this is great for the public. let me tell you, members of the house appreciate that their constituents are getting better information about the legislation that they're championing on sites like gov track. i worked to demand progress for bringing transparency to congressional research service reports. although the reports were widely available to those who could pay for them through private services, those reports including almost 400 reports on the different ways that a bill can become a law were not available to the public at large. we built the most comprehensive
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database of crs reports and made it available for anyone to read for free. while i'm talking to you here today, the website is gathering more reports and adding it to the website. when i build technology, my strategy is always the same. don't do too much, but make it last forever. or at least until congress does it better. that's how i was able to build gov track without any outside funding and how we were able to build every crs report.com on a budget of a few tens of thousands of dollars. the first question for the modernization committee is whether it will make the progress of the last several years by the bulk data task force last forever, too. making the task force permanent would ensure mr. reeves' work will continue. but there's a bigger picture ear here than creating more data. the data that's published has to be understandable.
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substitute amendments can be -- there's no quick fix to this problem. it's going to require big picture thinking. the creation of a chive transparency officer for the house of representatives or a chief data officer, as many federal agencies and localities already now have would create a space for the big picture thinking. best -- it's not being leveraged to raise the quality of information technology throughout the house. in addition to mr. reeves' work. i had to highlight gov info.gov the library use of -- to build congress.gov and other projects in the house clerk's office. funding and elevating the technology talent that already exists in the house will pay in dividends as other parts of the legislative branch learn how to do technology and transparency better. this committee has the unique opportunity to build on the last decade's worth of progress. i look forward to discussing it more. thank you. thank you.
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dr. lee. >> [ inaudible ] [ no audio ] >> thank you for the opportunity to testify today. my name is frances lee. i'm a professor of government and politics at the university of maryland. i'm also co-chair of the american political science association's task force project on congressional reform. i'm here to offer a cautionary note about congressional transparency. to be candid, this is not a comfortable position to be in. transparency is an important value, one that's essential to the democratic process. professionally as a political scientist, i need transparency to do research. but my goal today is to point to some of the unanticipated consequences of prior transparency reforms and to recommend that you consider how transparency can negatively affect deliberative processes. it burdens deliberation in two
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key ways. one, it empowers organized groups to press their demands in the legislative process. and two, it tends to divert congressional discourse outward towards messaging rather than towards problem solving. deliberation is the key concern. congress should make information about policy outcomes as transparent as possible. when congress enacts legislation, it should not be difficult for americans to find out what was done, how their representatives voted. americans should be informed about how taxpayer money is being spent and whether governmental purposes are being achieved. any innovations in data sharing or search capabilities that make it easier for the public to access in type of information should be a high priority for congressional modernizers. but public accountability does not require that all aspects of the deliberative process be open to public view. members need to be able to talk frankly with one another so that
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they can search for common ground, explore possible solutions and build trust with one another. congress has made the legislative process increasingly public since the transparency reforms of the 1970s. and despite their many positive consequences, these reforms have had two serious downsides for legislative deliberation. first, transparency makes it easier for organized groups, for lobbyists to monitor and pressure congress. this was not reformers goal. but transparency's effect is often contrary to its intended purpose. the broad public simply is not able to monitor congressional activity with the consistency or the intensity of organized interests. sunshine reforms have proved more useful to lobbyists than to average americans. interest groups take advantage of the transparency to sit in hon. open committee meetings and markups. they then leap into action to
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mobilize constituencies throughout the country. as they seek to push or to quash proposals being considered. ordinary citizens do not and cannot hope hope to match the capabilities of organized interests in these respects. a second effect of transparency is that it turns congressional deliberation outward towards messaging. deliberating in public encourages members to direct their attention towards external constituencies and audiences rather than to engage with other members. congressional transparency creates a version of the observer effect. it changes the behavior being observed. transparency encourages members to use the legislative process to score political points against their opponents in front of broader audiences. in committee and on the floor, members continually propose
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amendments. not in an effort to improve legislation but to put their opponents on the wrong side of public opinion. message politics is an ever greater preoccupation for congress since the 1994 elections and the end of the seemingly permanent democratic majority of the 20th century congress. as competition for majority control of congress has intensified, an increasingly large share of floor debate and recorded votes have been aimed at communicating messages to broader constituencies. one of the unanticipated consequences of transparency has been to divert congressional negotiations to settings where the doors can still be closed. most importantly, major legislation is negotiated in leadership offices which is exempt from sunshine rules. they do not take full advantage of the expertise that committees have, they tend to minimize the influence of rank and file
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members. but in a congress that's been so opened up to public view, leadership offices are private venues in which it's easier to conduct negotiations. it's not likely that congress will reverse the sunshine reforms of 1970s, but going forward, i recommend that congress look carefully at proposed transparency reforms to ascertain whether they have the potential to burden legislative negotiations and work to protect the space and the privacy they need to deliberate effectively. thanks. thank you, dr. lee. we'll now move into the question phase. i'm going to recognize myself for five minutes and start with a question for mr. reeves and then if i can keep my question short and your answer short, i want to ask a question of dr. lee as well. >> mr. reeves, as you know, congress requires the executive departments and agencies, as
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well as the president and parts of the legislative and judicial branches to submit thousands of reports. some are mandated, annually. others are one-time reports, others with specific time frames. sometimes reports are incorporated into an agency's interim report to congress. sometimes they're not. in a nutshell, congress gets a lot of reports every year, but finding this information, finding out about information about these reports, much less obtaining them, is often very, very difficult. i wanted to get a sense from you. what would it take for the house clerk's office to publish all of the reports due to congress on one central and public site? >> thank you. my understanding is there is currently a bill introduced, hr-736 to access congressionally
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mandated reports. the current process that the reports go to the speaker's office and the speaker refers them to the parliament tearians. they make a referral to which committee it goes to but send it to us. we make a note of the report. put it in your legislative information management system and give it to the committee. so there are a lot of unknowns. we don't know what bill it ties to. we don't know, for instance, is the -- woo would the requirement for such a website be that we do a scan pdf. would we want to receive them in an electronic format to be more easily searched? i think there's a lot of questions that we would want to iron out in just getting to what the requirement of what we need is. is it possible? yes. it's just a matter of exactly what it is we're trying to do. >> i'd love to -- i think other members of committee, i think we'd love to circle back and get a better sense of specifically
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what it would take to do that. i think that comes up a fair amount. i know we ask for reports and then there's this sense they go into the ether somewhere. dr. lee, so you've written a lot about dysfunction and polarization in the congress. i want to get your sense of how do you -- how do you counter those trends given we have narrow margins between the party, there's a lot more -- this place is very political. i want to get your counsel on any sense of how to get out of that trap. >> well, one thing i would say on behalf of congressional performance is that legislation, even today, is still bipartisan. it's still bipartisan to the same extent as legislation in the 1970s. the 1980s. in fact, there's been no trend
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towards more legislation passing on narrow party lines. negotiation and bipartisanship still happens in the legislative branch today. this doesn't make the front pages, typically. the news focus on conflict. but congress performs better than it appears to from watching news coverage of congress. now, those negotiations, those bipartisan negotiations that have to happen for legislation to occur are mostly not happening in public. i am struck by the fact that even the legislative branch, there aren't formal regularized meetings where parties can meet on a bipartisan basis. that the regular formal closed-door meetings that occur in congress are the ones that occur in the party caucuses and the party lunches every week. there isn't a setting where the parties can come together behind
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closed doors. i think that would be help fum. clearly, congress is still doing that. because that legislation is still happening and it is bipartisan. by and large. >> what form would you have that take? >> well, i would leave it up to congress to find a form that would be useful to you. i mean, there are have been frequently, over the years proposals to have bipartisan retreats, they serve one-off affairs. it needs to be meaningful to members. so i would encourage creative thinking there. i don't think it's something that it can be prescribed from the outside. but it is striking that the closed-door meetings that occur in a regular way are along straight party lines. >> yeah. i think the only exception is when we have a classified briefing. i'm always struck when i walk out of those, they seem to be
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very civil, sane and constructive. that's not always the case when the cameras are on, unfortunately. okay. with that, mr. graves, you're recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. might i add, the cameras are on today and this is probably one of the most civil committees there are in the house of representatives. i appreciate each of your testimonies. it's fascinating and fantastic to hear your thoughts. dr. lee, your perspectives are unique but well-received by this committee and other members too. we've heard similar thoughts and concerns about how the institution operates because of potential theater that might occur and maybe it's not intentional. it's just nature. instincts that take over in a political environment. mr. schumann, if i could ask you to dig deeper in some of your ideas. those are really neat ideas. you make them sound very simple. i imagine they are simple
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because you say technology can fix this. you mentioned one as it relates to amendments and how it interacts and just say we're in a process and you should be able to click on an amendment and electronic format and see how it fits into a piece of legislation. in addition to that, i assume you were referencing when a bill is being proposed that being able to see how the proposed language fits in to existing language. what's being eliminated and what's being added. we don't have that benefit today. i think you were touching on that. maybe you could dig deeper into that. mr. reeves, if you could help us understand what are the barriers to that kind of simple technology or ability to see this interface or interaction of policy mashing together. what prevents that from happening? what direction do you need or does an office need to implement and where does that come from?
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does it mean laws have to change or is it direction from leadership and such? we're trying to learn how to implement unique ideas into the process. mr. schumann, if you want to dig in deeper and mr. reeves, how would -- >> i have good news. the house is trying to build exactly the system where you can see how the bill would change the law in real-time. there's a number of complexities that arise in how legislation is drafted. you have to look at if this bill says go to this other bill and strike line 27 and insert the following. the machine needs to be able to understand that. that is complex to do. that there are issues request the way u.s. code -- some is law, some is not. it gets weed i pretty quick. this is something that the clerk's office and the office of our counsel have already been working on. i'd love to go more into it.
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i think mr. reeves might be able to speak to it better than i can. >> i think the project we're talking about is the posey comparative print. >> it's also the amendment impact program. >> as daniel says, we're currently working on this. we're working on phase 2 which we started last august. phase 2 will be complete in august of this year. and then phase 3 would be complete august of 2020. the intent at the end is to provide a tool that would allow members, staff to do document comparisons, amendments to document comparisons by executing this tool and have confidence that the tool is giving them a good representation of what the changes would be. as daniel said, one of the things that we're working on now is the building the engine
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that's going to interpret the instructions to compare the bills. so it needs to be, in my understanding, from talking to our folks, right now we're in the 90% range that we believe that we have confidence in the tool. but it need to be higher. so we're looking to continue to move to make this tool available. today, it is available. but it's available only to the office of leg counsel. and i believe the rules committee. they have the ability to do comparisons and provide responses back. but it requires an attorney to sit there and make decisions that we're trying to automate. it takes time and becomes a bottleneck within the office of leg. counsel. there's not enough time for them to do it in a timely manner.
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>> so it's in process. still a little ways away. >> yes. >> the proposals you're working on. how difficult is it for -- say somebody introduces a piece of legislation and says strike sub section 10a, why don't we see what that language is that's stricken? all we see is the word strike section 10a. is that difficult to do? how do we implement that? i'm just talking about on paper, old technology. >> well, my understanding of the way the tool is going to work is that you'll be able to see the old and the new side by side. so you're going to be able to see what there was and what the action was and what the new bill is going to look like. >> that's not available today in paper format. you're working on it in digital format, is that correct? >> working on it in digital format. to a degree, some of that is
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available today through the office of legislative counsel. >> okay. thank you. this has been great. thank you, mr. chairman. i appreciate your offer to be here. let me ask my question. my main question is around lobbying and disclosure of lobbying. i think people really want to know who is lobbying on what. i learned yesterday there's almost 1500 lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry in washington. so that means three per every member. i'm not sure who my three are. it's something that in wisconsin we had a really -- we have a great website, lobbying.wi.gov put out by the ethics commission. i can easily go there and see who every lobbyist is, who they fo fork for, what they're -- work for, i tried that on the federal site. because there's a doj and house side, there's not one location
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to find all of this information. to be perfectly honest, i looked at it. i can't figure out what i'm trying to find out. i like the user friendly, what you see is what you git. plug and play. all the different terminology you use. i want to make it something an average person can look up and often a bill has a really nice ding to it. but the bill doesn't have much to do with the name assigned to it. is there a way that we could streamline even the information, the disclosures and the presentation on the lobbying side so people could really have a very clean and transparent view of what's going on? >> yes. so what you're saying makes perfect sense. some of this has to do with the way the different lobby systems are constructed. we have different reg station for the lobbyists. the clerk of the house, the secretary of the senate has. whereas, a foreign lobbist, you have to register under the foreign agent's registration act which is more popular than it
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used to be, apparently. these are sort of different data sets. part of what you need to be able to do with that and when you're looking at stc data or federal elections campaign, is that -- i'm a federally registered lobbyist, i register under the lda. i fill out my information in one place. i'm daniel shuman, i'm registered under demand progress. sunlight foundation might have listed me as dan shuman and didn't spell it right. i'm the same person throughout this process. and that you can look at all the different places that i lobbied. and then, let's say i work for a corporation, demand progress is demand progress inc., if we're registered with the ftc or the s.e.c., there should be an identifier there as well. you can take the different data sets and meld them together. this is what open secrets does, the center for politics.
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they spend tons and tons of time to take the different information, sometimes that's incomplete or badly filed and try to make it make some kind of sense. it doesn't. part of it is there's certain information that is being reported but not being fully disclosed. i have a unique idea inside the house -- current practice is not disclosed to the public. you can't see that i'm the same person lobbying for the sunlight foundation. there's the witness disclosure forms that i had to fill out yesterday to testify. it's a document put on the committee website somewhere. it's not connected to this other data site. you have to have the data underlying the stuff. need to have it exposed to the public so that someone can connect it all together. i don't know if there's more that you want to -- >> what i'd like to add, it is on the clerk's list to revisit the lobby disclosure system that we support.
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we do the back end technical work for it and then the front end is kind of split, as you say, between the house and the senate. it's something that we need to work together with our counterparts in the secretary's office to come up with what it is we would want in a new design. unique idea is something that on the house side we certainly favor to be able to track someone, whether they move from the house to the senate or wherever they go. so it's certainly something that we're open to consider. it's not something we're currently working on. currently, we're working on the recently passed jack back legislation to make sure that's implemented, i believe, by the end of this month. >> i would recommend -- take a look at the -- if you have feedback, specifically on that. it's so easy. i went to that and looked up a company and saw they're not working on something. i'm sure there are people paid
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to know. that's probably the same people paid to be lobbyists who know who is doing what. >> since i have a yellow light, not yet red. any other governmental bodies we should be looking at that have best practices in this area? >> the -- u.s. digital service probably have best practices on the publication of information as data that might be helpful. particularly around what you describe which is user center design, which is designed so you can actually use it. >> thank you. thanks very much. mr. bhwhittle. >> thank you mr. chairman. thank you for being here. i'm thinking dr. tauberror of when i was thinking of a district -- i couldn't find one. i had to go to gov track.us to go to a map to check on lines. fascinating what nongovernment
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dollars do when there's a need and folks commit themselves to filling that need. i'm grateful to you for demonstrating that in real life. philosophically, i sit closer to dr. lee having served up here as a staffer and served as a member. i still notice when you walk back towards the house chambers, there's no pictures beyond this point because we've decided when you cross that threshold, deliberation is more important than transparency. thinking particularly about you, dr. tauberror and you mr. shuman and dedicated yourselves to advance parn si. if my goal is productivity, what more is there to do in realm of transparency to achieve better productivity. >> sure. thank you, congressman for your comments about gov track before. by and large we don't look at
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private deliberative information at all. we don't do any work that tries to expose private information. all the information on gov track is public through some other means and we just do it better in many cases. we have data analysis to reveal a clearer picture of what's going on based on already public information. and in the case of the crs reports, it was widely available to many thousands of people who were already paying for it. so i think -- i'm not sure i want to get into deliberative information because that's not what i do. >> okay. >> so sort of a couple of thoughts. one is transparency isn't just transparency to the public. it's also to the members or to the committee. when you're going to go to a committee and vote, you should have the bill in enough time or the amendment or the manager's amendment or whatever it is that you know what you're going to vote on. so this isn't necessarily public
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transparency but transparency to the members. the rules are what you would expect them to be. so that the rules are debated. that you have an opportunity to have input. that you know that you'll have five minutes. that is also an aspect of transparency. i think where i might disagree with dr. lee a little bit, although maybe not, which is that as things stand now, for a lot of the deliberative spaces, there's still public access to that information. but that public access varies based on how well-connected you are. how well-healed you are. if i want to get a copy of an amendment that's going to be voted on in committee tomorrow, i probably can't get it. but if i am a giant company that hires a staffer who used to work for the committee who is now my chief lobbyist and say can you do me a solid and get me a copy of that amendment, they're going to see it. some of the issue here is not about transparency, yea or nay, it's about managing the consequences that some people
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have access to things in the advance and some people don't. >> we won't be able to explore it all here. but crs is a good example. we're talking about whether to staff up crs, whether they have a larger role to play as staffs remain small. i don't want the public to have access to what my staff briefs me on before this committee hearing. this one would be okay, mr. chairman. other ones, i might not want that. if i'm going to rely more on crs, i'm going to need more of a attorney-client privilege with crs to have that. they offer us that in their nonpublic reports and i don't want to undermine public confidence. i want to raise public confidence. i just happen to believe in 2019, i raise public confidence less by working on transparency and more by working on productivity. folks discouraged by our out put. >> can i talk about examples
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specifically? >> sure. >> i used to work on crs -- we have never advocated for will we support access to the confidential the confidential memos of the advice that crs gives you. that is wholly inappropriate. if there are reports that are general distribution reports available on their website that you can call the members office and get, that private services we're selling. so the advice that your staffer gives you before you come over here, should never see that. i don't want your papers. that is not appropriate. but once you engage in an official act or something that provides very useful context for what's going on. >> then you need to weigh whether the value of having the public being able to ask an intelligent question or understand what you're going, you have to weigh that against the nature of the communication.
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in those circumstances the balance may come out different ways depending on what we're talking about. >> mr. chairman, i yield. >> mr. cleaver. >> i really want us to function at a much, much higher level than we've doing. i got up this morning and had a horrible beginning of the day to see the boston red sox at the white house. only the white players are there, none of the african-american nor latino or caribbean players attended. and i'm watching that and thinking we are exporting that as a body. so i want to fix it. i'm very curious on following up
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on what you were just saying. i'm kind of curious about some of the progress we made as a nation. i'm not sure that lyndon johnson would have been able to get the sill rights bill or the voting rights act approved if the world was involved in hearing and viewing his interactions and the deal making that took place to get that done. and in the capitol, there's a room on the first floor where harry truman and his posse were playing cards and drinking bourbon when the secret service came over to inform him that president roosevelt had died. i don't drink and i don't smoke.
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i'm a vegetarian. but as mayor of kansas city, we have a sunshine law so members of the city council had to be careful about going out to lunch together. because if four members of the council went out to lunch, they're in violation of the sunshine law. i'm not saying i oppose having sunshine. i am saying that it is a much more complicated issue than just making a declaration. i'm willing to do almost anything to change the trajectory of this national hostility. so i mean, how do you handle the fact that in spite of some times when we had hardly any transparency we got some of the biggest things in our history
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done? >> so three related thoughts and i'll be very brief. one is that, you know, that was a very different era. you know lyndon johnson also used to hand out bags of money on the floor. there are things that were like done at that time which aren't done now. but to the better point, i think, about having safe spaces, i think they used to exist and they were taken away. there used to be congressional member organizations where staff would support members to come together around various issues where they would meet in private on a bipartisan basis and have conversations around issues. that was defunded in 1995. if you wanted to meet on agricultural or human rights or whatever issue you want to meet and have staff that can help and
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support you in that space, that is something that no longer exists. that has taken away from the nature of the conversations members could have privately. the funding fis entirely different than what it was before and that has changed the nature of the dynamic as well. >> i think we would probably all agree here that given the current information environment that we have to deal with that it is better for everyone if everybody is more educated, if we educate the public better on how things work, what is the expectation, what policy goals are possible. and for you all to have better information as well about what's happening in the capitol by your colleagues. we're not doing this for the sake of transparency. i think there will be better
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outcomes in an environment where there is better transparency. i acknowledge the concerns that you have but better outcomes can come from transparency in other ways. >> it's important to keep in mind that there are tough tradeoffs involved with transparency. we don't expect presidents to conduct foreign affairs in public. we understand these kinds of conversations need to be frank and they cannot occur in public settings. it's likewise true for domestic policy making as well as for foreign policy. in domestic policy making when you're trying to work out legislation with other members that they come in package deals. so you're not necessarily enthusiastic about every aspect of a piece of legislation that you have worked out with others across the aisle. if that is presented in open committee where there's an opportunity to then pick apart the package deal so that --
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think in terms of a program that members support, would like to institute. the offsets required to fund that program typically somewhat painful and not something you necessary hi would want to support in isolation from the rest of the program. it only stands or falls as part of the larger deal. so when deliberation happens in public view and members are put on the spot, do you support this aspect of the bill, well, maybe you don't, but you support the whole approach to addressing the problem. so it's somewhat misleading, i think, to put members in public on every aspect of a piece of legislation when as a whole package you might support it even if not everything is what you'd prefer. >> thank you. mr. newhouse. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thanks all of you for being here
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and adding to this. if we could solve the issues surrounding this topic, we'd be in a lot better place in congress. i like the direction of the conversation. i've got to associate myself with mr. pocan's comments. i think the state of washington does a lot better job of keeping members informed of changes that are being proposed. i think they're called red line versions of bills where it's very clear what's being changed, what would be added or subtracted by amendments. i think we are also much more transparent as far as the lobbying community as concerned as well. there's got to be examples out there and maybe a voluminous issue here in d.c. i think there's examples that could be helpful. i've said before in this committee half jokingly but half serious too that things would be a lot better if we just got rid of the tv cameras.
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we can never do, that i don't think because there's a big transparency is certainly important and i would advocate that we need to improve transparency. but i've got to say that i liked what you said, dr. lee, transfers deliberation to messaging. and we see that every single day. both sides are guilty of that. to me, that doesn't add to the quality of our productivity. some of the ideas that have been presented this morning talk about increasing the availability of safe places for members of congress to be able to deliberate. so i'd like to explore that some more. how could we possibimprove that ability but also keeping a strong level of transparency as
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well? could you just expound on that? you talked about what we used to have. are there ideas we maybe could look at as a modernization committee what we could return to or include again? >> we had suggested including in the 116th rules package was the idea of each member of congress be given the equivalent of 10 thousand dollar they could put toward a congressional member organization. if every member -- would be $4.4 million. they'd be able to take that money and put it toward these member organizations to pay for staff. if you wanted to be a member of the environmental caucus you could put your $10,000 toward that. if eight members get there, you have $80,000. you have enough to pay for a person. you're creatinge ining a place
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you can have a conversation, where you have someone supporting you on the issues you care about. this is bipartisan so anybody can be a participant. it's not the same but it's similar to what we have before. there was this democratic study group which was this tremendous drie driver among democrats. you released the charter for the group if they do public things like they have a house website or something like that. it's not entirely internal. but that way you have a safe space for conversation. you have people that are supporting members who care about an issue or set of issues. at the same time if you wanted to go and have a private conversation with like-minded members where you could work together and strategize, you can do that. >> do you think that would minimize it will messaging that used to be deliberation? >> i think that's driven by things outside of congress. i think the nature of the world has changed where messaging is
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just sort of inescapable. i think what it does is it makes it possible to find allies. i a lot of the recommendations we've made elsewhere around the data, it's this member introduced this bill two years ago that you would have never found on exactly the topic you care about. it's being able to find the unlikely allies that care about what you care about, which is what make this is institution work. this is the role that lobbyists play now. and that's the danger. you should not be coming to me for expertise saying these are the eight other members that care about this issue. >> institutionally it should be available. >> exactly right. >> again, thank you all for being here. this truly is a huge part of what we're trying to modernize in congress. appreciate your input here this morning. thank you, mr. chairman.
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>> thank you. >> we'll go from washington state to washington state. thank you all for being here. we had a hearing just recently where we heard from former members of congress. i think all of them said in one way or the other how important it was that congress isn't afraid of using new technology, that we have to be thoughtful about how we do that, but doing nothing has had a lot of detriment. mr. reeves, in your testimony you explained that the conversation around information transparency has involved and the question involved from will we have publicly available documents to how can we modernize our systems and work flows to utilize newer technologies to help our constituents and staff access information. so based on your experience, what's the low-hanging fruit? what are the things we should be doing right away to incorporate
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newer technology in congress that really will have immediate benefit. >> well, i mean, i think that -- you mean from a legislative perspective? >> doesn't have to be legislative. what aren't we doing that we should be doing, whether it's legislative or more administrative? what do you think we should be doing? >> there's a couple things. better communication. one of the things that even within the bulk data task force that we really don't get exposure to is communication actually with the public. we do talk to the civil society groups and we kind of take it from their view that they're getting that perspective from the public, but we don't get it directly from the public. we do have public meetings usually two or three times a year. we have started making the
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invitations more public using get hub. but a lot of the people that attend are the same people that have attends, either people in the civil society group or academics that have participated in the the group as well. one is communication. how do we get more of what the public wants, how do we get more exposure to more of what the public wants. a second thing would be -- and i think josh mexintioned this or maybe it was daniel -- education. so the legislative process, as you know, is not easy to understand. we get a lot of questions because there isn't an understanding of how to best look for the data, what are you looking for, where should you look for it. so i think another piece would be how do we better educate folks on where they can find things that they're looking for and make it easier for them to get it. one of the theories we've been using since the bulk data task
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force started was we didn't want to make data redundant. so if the library of congress has bill summary information and they're the owner of it, we didn't want to copy that data and put it on the clerk's website. so instead we made a decision that if people are going to look for bill summary data we're going to link to them from the clerk's website to the library of congress. is that the way we want to do it, does the public want to do it that way? technically that's the better way to do it, but it may not always be the easiest from the public's view. >> i worked in technology before i ended up in this role and we would do testing. we would get groups of people together and watch them trying to find information and see whether they were able to find what they were looking for or not and learn from their experiences to make it better. do we do things like that?
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>> we do. the clerk is -- right now we have two websites cle clerk.house.gov. probably arou on our new website we have a survey. the survey says do you like the way we've produced the data, what would you change, what else would you like to see. we ask those questions. i can't tell you that we get a lot of responses. >> i get as members of congress, are we aware of what's happening there and can we help ask our constituents to weigh in and give their feedback on these things? because clearly if we're communicating to constituents and they're looking for information, maybe that's a way to help connect them and get that feedback in. >> i think that's a great idea. we would be very welcome to any direction you can provide to have your constituents look at
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things that we do and give us feedback. we'd be open to that certainly. >> thank you. thanks, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> it's funny. the transparency in the legislative process, last night i was giving a tour of the capitol and you go in the old senate chamber and there's the original bill hopper. as a bill moved through the process it just went up a shelf. and the shelf is narrow as you go up because it's really hard to pass legislation. so that was transparency 19th century style. mr. timmons. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you all for coming to speak with us today. i agree that there should be more transparency when it comes to legislative information, but before that can happen externally it needs to happen internally. i have joked with issued a voe kates that they will know what hearings my committees will hold weeks before i do. even as a member there's no real
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transparency about committee activity if you're part of the minority. i must point out that i'm not referencing this committee because our leadership has been incredibly inclusive and i've really enjoyed being a part of it. so my question is how can we expect to have public transparency when members of committees are kept in the dark? how do you suggest we change the culture or should we begin by strengthening internal transparency rules as a precursor to strengthening external transparency? >> so i think you do both, because it is a real problem. members don't have enough notice about what's going on. how many times do you have to go to three committees at the same time? the planning process alone doesn't make any sense. there isn there are opportunities to do this. the house rules or you could do
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a resolution that would affect it. committees adopt the rules at the beginning of each congress. you could say hey it should be four days notice or five days notice for when the hearing is going to be. hearingings under house rules i think are seven days notice and markups are three days. one of the changes the democrats made when they took control this time around was they expanded the republican three-day rule to make it 72 hours before legislation can be considered on the floor. there may be value in doing something similar to that. putting out tentative dates for when hearings are going to take place is something that's helpful. the prior -- when you had the former members, they were talking about five days on for two weeks. you could look at monday, wednesday, friday are four vote days and tuesdays and thursdays are committee hearing days. you can move the chamber
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calendar around so you have a greater expectation about when things are going to happen. a lot of the technology we've been talking about and mr. reeves has been talking about, when you get that managers amendment 24 hours in advance, you have no idea what it says. if we can fix some of the technological side of that, you'll actually have a chance to know what it does. wile that doesn't give you more time, that gives you more information which is almost as valuable. those might be some ways you can address that. for the committees on which you sit you could suggest amendment to the committee rules, a resolution in the chamber would work. if you've got a good chair, you say hey if you're planning things out for the next month, can you share with us what's on a tentative basis. the final thing i would suggest is that when you get into the majority, and you will get into the majority at some point because it always flips back and
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forth, it's important to remember how awful it is to be in the minority and to take some of those practices and bring them the next time you're in power because people forget that pretty quickly and it's something that is essential to make the institution work. >> i always joke there's 12 people in my primary that would love to be in the minority. >> if i could add to that, there's a maxim in the private sector which is you can't fix what you don't measure. the first way that you can begin to look at what are these policy impediments to transparency would be to pick a few and start measuring it. how many days in advance on average are bills made available before you have to have a hearing. there are a lot of ways to collect data on these sorts of issues. daniel has proposed several of these over many years, sometimes about house staff pay and so on. i would recommend starting with a few and having the committee start to take the lead on
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measuring what the current state is of some of these issues. >> one last thing. we've had three hearings thus far. it seems some of the big topics are calendar, what days we meet and schedule what we do with those days. i think technology is going to play an important role in that to try to decrease the amount of multiple obligations at the same time. maybe we can work together in the future about potential technological solutions to those problems as well. thank you. i yield back. >> thank you. ms. brooks. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you all so very much for being here. i'm going to build on a few questions that my colleagues have asked but i have to tell you i came to congress in 2013 as an attorney. i was incredibly frustrated that we didn't have the comparative on amendments, on bills. so i'm thrilled about the comparative print project but let me ask you, mr. reeves, is
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there anything we could do to speed it up? are there resources you need? is there anything we could do? i understand you're under contract. you've got a vendor contractor working on it and so forth, but is there any additional resources the clerk's office might need to speed it up? >> i don't believe so at this time. some things i think like one of the things we're doing right now is building this artificial intelligence engine. and that's to interpret the different like strike or insert and then be able to compare that to the previous legislation to find out where it needs to go and all that type of thing.
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so being able to put more people to do one thing i don't think in this case is going to make it go any faster. in the case of building this engine. i'm not sure -- the goal is to complete this engine in the second phase. i'm not sure if when we get to the third phase there may be other opportunities once we know that works to be able to accelerate some of the other things we're trying to do. some of them are, for instance, the interface to the user and things like that. there's potentially the opportunity to accelerate those things with more resources at that time. >> please let us know. i do have a question, because i was working on a piece of legislation with the senate, the pandemic all hazard preparedness act which we got through the
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house. but senate led counsel according to my staff would routinely provide the senate committee staff with the comparative print on the senate side. so how is it that the senate's doing it and we' ee're not doin? they're the body that's usually behind us on this. were you aware of that, that the senate has the tool? are any of you aware of that? >> i think they're doing it by hand. the volume of members that they have to deal with and legislation is different. josh probably has the statistics on it. so right now if you have a bill that's reported out of committee, at the end of the committee report you have a comparative print because someone goes and does that by hand. >> so the word document that my staff would receive showing the comparisons was actually all
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done by hand? >> some poor person was probably doing that. >> okay. thank you for that. another question. i want to build on the low-hanging fruit question. did you have any ideas since you have creating the database in the past, is there any low-hanging fruit right now we should be focusing on and is there any particular data sets that you need that you don't have? >> thank you for the question. yes, there's always low-hanging fruit. there's always more data to work on. so amendments are one of the missing pieces i think right now. as you know, on high profile legislation amendments are where the real action is and there's comparatively little information available on the text of amendments especially before they're votes on that we have access to. >> and what would that take for you to get those amendments in the manner in which you would
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like them and the format? >> getting them into a structured data format where the text is electronic, easy to copy and search and sort, it may want be easy. i'm not sure. i know that on the worst end of this i know members can just scribble amendments on the floor and hand them in and this would be relatively hard to digitize. there's an end of this would be hard but that shouldn't stop us from making progress where we can. >> are you aware -- we're in the middle of the week of the congressional app challenge. we had all these brilliant young people from all over our districts submit apps. i didn't have time to go around and visit all of those booths or all of the winners from each of our districts. are any of you familiar with any apps that have already been created or are in the process of being created that you think
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would be spectacular and would be used. are you familiar with any of them or do you even follow any of what all these young people are creating? any of you? >> so i've been every year. i go to the congressional app challenge. they do a phenomenal job. it's been doubling every year. the kids are amazing. >> yes, they are. >> i was talking to a sixth grader who was coding in ruby on rails. i mean, they're phenomenal. i'm an attorney by trade so i'm lucky if i can get my basic sums right and they just blow me away how phenomenal they are. >> thank you for paying attention. i wanted to give a shoutout to the congressional app challenge. we might be needing to talk to some sixth graders and 12th graders about how to help us with this and i'm kind of serious. >> maybe the app challenge should be only focused on things that will make congress work better.
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yeah. next year's app challenge. we have the technology. so we have a little bit of time before votes are called. i think there are some members of the committee who have other questions. i have one. i just want to reflect what i think we heard today and see if there's nodding heads from everyone on the panel or shaking heads if you think it's a bad idea. so i think i've heard at least a couple of you say let's have a chief data officer, a chief transparency officer as a position that helps drive some of this transparency effort. the there general agreement that's a good idea? mr. reeves is going eh. do you want to express any specific concerns on that? >> yeah. i'm not in favor of it or opposed to it. one of the things i've talked to daniel a little bit about, probably in two or three weeks
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we're going to hold another bulk data task force public meeting. i'd like to put that on the agenda as a discussion item because what i'd like to get at is what is it that we're not doing that they think that a chief data officer is going to solve. and so if we can have that discussion, then i'd be able to give you a better answer as to, yeah, i think it's a good idea or, no, i think we can do this and not have to do that. >> rebuttal? >> i think the proposal should not be taken to say that the work of the bulk data task force has not achieved exactly what we had hoped and instead that there is more to do and perhaps there are other stake holders not focused specifically on legislative data that we want to get in the room and make more progress on. >> go ahead. >> if i can add to that i think the bulk data task force has been a tremendous success and
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should be expanded to be the congressional data task force. the problem is not the house. the house is doing a great job with the resources that are available. i think they should have more resources than they do to do what they're doing. but there is a coordination problem across the legislative branch. gpo and the library and all of these other entities are all in different places and the senate. so having someone who can help facilitate, who can help support them collaborating better together, i mean, the idea is a legislative branch chief data officer, not just someone for the house. >> one of the other concerns with that type of position is, as you know, we don't have one place in the legislative branch that everyone answers to. one of the questions i would have for them is who does it
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report to, is it in the clerk's office que office? well then is the senate going to listen to what they have to say? okay. we kind of think we have maybe an idea and maybe we can bring that idea to you and say we've talked about it and here's what we think is a workable solution. >> great. you've got members of this committee who'd love to be part of this conversation. i've heard some stuff but i want to make sure to give other folks time. this seems to be a theme around wanting to support and make sure there's adequate capacity to do some of the things you're working on, the bill tracking and amendment tracking and all those other things. i think i've heard that. i think a couple folks mentioned that lobbying disclosure piece
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supporting the posy project. imt i want to turn to vice chair graves. >> just a few follow-ups. i sort of associate myself with my fellow georgian here. reading your testimony, you outline a lot of the conversatichallenges and maybe unintended consequences that have occurred. any recommendations you would have for the committee to look forward as you evaluate additional transparency, but are there recommendations you'd have for us based on some of the concerns. >> i didn't know coming in today what the recommendations for additional transparency would be
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proposed. but as i have listened to the testimony, i would just ask that you scrutinize it carefully, that any proposals that you adopt don't have the potential to burden deliberation. in listening to recommendations to create a chief data officer or taransparency officer, what hear is also to create a position in the house of representatives that will advocate for more transparency. so you want to know whether that's putting a thumb on the scale of opening up processes that work better behind closed doors. now, i think there are obviously great need for coordination. that's true for congress across the board. there's certainly a rationale there but there's office tradeoffs with all of these
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institutional reforms. so some sensitivity into the way those reforms can have down sides. >> i know you're talking about new reforms we might be considering but past reforms that you feel like have caused some unintended consequences. >> going back to the '70s and opening up committees about who attends. it goes to mr. reeves' point that who's paying attention to congressional transparency. you try to reach out to a broad public but the people who show up are the people who have a stake in the outcome. as we open up committees, what that opens up -- you want to reach your constituents. you want to reach that broader
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audience but most americans are not that tuned into public affairs. and we don't want to ask too much of that broad public. as we try to reach out and make the system more representative and more accountable, we wind up making it less representative and accountable to organize ed groups inzaed of the public. those are the concerns. i know there's no going back because the idea of closing congress off from the people would never be acceptable. congress is the people's house. but congress needs to protect its the civility to do the work of the institution. >> you're right. our goal is to make this institution better so we can better serve the american people. that means we're going to make some bold and big recommendations over time, so your input is welcome. one last question and point as
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to mr. reeves' and ms. brooks out line of maybe a frustration of mine. i was elected in the special election. during that time i saw this problem with the comparative language. i came out of a general assembly where it was very easy to see what was being added, what was being taken away. we took the majority coming in next. me and paul ryan cosponsored an amendment to make this a process in which we could see the comparative language. it was opposed by then john boehner, speaker of the house, because it had been indicated to him it was not possible, it was too big of a task, that this couldn't happen. he had been informed by the
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clerk's office and such this was not possible. that was nearly 8 1/2 years ago and here we are today. how do we avoid that in the future? where do new idea and innovative ideas, how do they get to you or others and how do they get implemented? does it require legislation? does it require a member of congress having to lobby their entire conference and get a close to change the house rules to do something? or is it legislation? where do these ideas come from and how do they get implements in less than a decade? >> many of the members i've talked to mr. posy included has said that in his state florida, the legislation ksh the way they craft is pretty much standardized.
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so it makes it easier to cothese exterior sons going forward. >> just innovative ideas to help us do our job better. how do they get substituted when we have them? >> most cases it is a top down type of suggestion. it's something that is either legislated or put in the rules and then it's executed. sometimes the group that carries out that function is consulted on we're thinking of doing this, what do you think we should include? we have been included in some of those discussions. other times it's not. we find out about a rule when the rule gets passed and we have to react to it. communication is a strong word but being able to communicate more like that, here's what i'm thinking, what do you think --
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>> so autonomy doesn't, i guess, sit within the clerk's office? there is not a chief person that's looking for new technology to implement. it has to come from top down. >> within our area of responsibility like the legislative process, yes, we look for ways that we can implement a new technology to better do our job. one of the big projects is redoing the legislation management system. it's a system that's 30 years old that we got from the cao a long time ago that we've tried to patch and patch and patch as years have gone on. this is a system that all of what happens on the floosh gr g somewhere and then it goes place. it's not an easy thing. it's a multi-year project. it's going to be done in faces.
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some of the things we do say, hey, we need to do this to do our job better, but then there are other things maybe more from a member perspective that you want to see. >> that's a good delineation. they have the autonomy to do things that help them do their job better. but the ideas we have to do our job better have to come from us. that's very helpful to us. >> mr. cleaver? >> just want to get your opinion. there's a small group of us been working now for several weeks trying to get a bipartisan retreat called. a friend of mine who i begged not to retire.
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his name is ray lahood. he did the first restretreat the had back in the '90s. we had about 90-something participants. it would have been better if we had had the majority. there was one problem, though, as some of you may remember. the media was not happy because members didn't want the media sitting in the middle of the retreat as people are trying to figure out how we can work together. so that's one issue. another is, do you think it's worthwhile, do you think it even matters? >> i mean, certainly we hear from members, especially exit interviews and oral histories when members talk about their experiences that knowing other members across the aisle is very important to being legislatively
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successful. that those relationships make a big difference, we hear that. how do those get involved, especially in a congress where members are only here a few days a week, constantly traveling, each lunch while they're here is monopolized only with meetings with members of the own party, so how are you going to forge those relationships across the aisle? i believe that it matters. i cannot show you how it matters but there's a great deal of testimony to that effect. what members say from their own experiences that knowing others is critical to being a successful lawmaker. >> i agree also that of course it matters that members have the ability to have a private space to deliberate. i just want to be clear. i don't think that's at odds with also providing access to the public to see the text of
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amendments that have already been voted on for instance. there's a lot of public access questions that are really very far from the question of deliberation. i do transparency but in no way do i apose dloppose deliberatio. i don't think that any of our suggestions or house rules really get in the way of creating a deliberative space except perhaps money, as daniel mentioned before. >> thank you. >> this is going to be a weird suggestion. >> i'm all ears. >> the maitre d' at the monaco has been there since the '80s. i told you it was going to be weird. i've spent a lot of time with him talking about the difference between now and when he got started as a young guy and how
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members would come down and even if votes were called, democrats didn't have to worry if they didn't know about the vote. this is long before we had all of this technology. a republican would come up and say, hey, it's time to go to vote. i don't drink but sometimes if members were a little tipsy, nobody would leave him behind. nobody tried to hurt anybody. they'd all try to help. i'm not -- you know, maybe he wouldn't be a good witness, i don't know, but it wouldn't hurt to have a non-transparency meeting with him to just hear about the old days. thank you. i'm sorry. >> that's all right. thank you. >> some of those benefits that mr. cleaver talked about i think come from -- i think it was mr.
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shoeman who talked about the permanent democratic majority of the 21st century. in the interim, i think it was also mr. shoeman who said we've got to be able to measure it. i think we've got to be able to set our goal. d dr. lee put it in deliberative terms and productivity terms. but everyone expressed a concern about the amendment process in particular, whether we're able to have those conversations in private, whether we're able to get access to that information. as committee members, we haven't had an open rule certainly not in this congress, not since paul ryan was speaker. he didn't have any open rules, but in the days of open rules you could have written an amendment on the back of a
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cocktail napkin, debated it right there on the house floor and that would not just have been considered appropriate but regular order. i'm told that back in the day it was a violation of house rules to read a speech on the house floor because it was so offensive that you would have scripted your presentation instead of actually been involved in serious deliberative thought with one another. we've talked a lot about getting back to regular order. regular order by definition means striking the last word and having amendments on the fly on the house floor. as transparency and productivity advocates, you would tell me what? you prefer where we are with preprinting requirements for amendments where everybody gets 24 hours to take a peek at them, or you prefer the regular order process where any member with any good idea at any time is able to have that conversation on the house floor, make that a
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part of the bill though the public would be behind in that conversation. >> the latter, of course. the whole point of congress is to be a deliberative body that takes input from all different parties and thinks through the process. of course it makes sense to have the process, the technology that supports the deliberation. now, the first time the amendment's being discussed is live on the house floor, then everybody's getting it at the same time. that's totally fine. i don't think anyone would have any concerns with that. we would want to look to make sure if there were technical problems with the drafting, people make mistakes, that will be fixed in some fashion. otherwise, of course that would be fine, at least from my perspective. >> i agree with the overall sentiment. although closed rules have the appearance of creating more regularity and better data -- and that may be true -- from my perspective closed rules actually create irregularity.
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every time you submit a closed rule there's a different set of timings and where does it come from. it actually creates less transparency in terms of explaining how congress is operating. i would love to see the end of closed rules. >> doctor lr. lee? >> i think most leaders in congress would agree that regular order processes are better and they would like to see those. we have to ask ourselves why are they so infrequently used and why when a new majority comes to power do they quickly lose their resolve to stick to regular order? you have to be realistic about the pressures that you're under as members or especially as a a majority party to deliver, to get things done. under those circumstances leaders want to regulate
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participation for members. i'm struck by the earlier comments i learned about leader boehner saying he didn't think it would be possible to do comparative legislative language. leaders are probably a little skeptical of the things that make it really a lot easier for rank and file members to weigh in. the legislative process is so difficult, it's so hard to do anything, so your ability to regulate when other members encounter legislative information, when it becomes available to them is also a way to help congress move, help congress act. so i think just a recognition of the pressures that leaders have had to deal with and some understanding of why regular order is often untenable in today's era of messaging politics. >> pressure on the leaders do often lead to bad outcomes which is why we are so fortunate to be on the committee here with two
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leaders who have been doing nothing except to advance the cause of us on the committee. i want to tell you how much i appreciate that and how much i appreciate you calling this particular meeting today. thank you, mr. vice chairman. >> i want to say thank you. i think this was actually a really good conversation. frankly i look at part of the charge of our committee as actually trying to make sure that there's more clarity, more transparency for the american people so this place functions better on their behalf. i think the conversation around deliberation is an important one, though. how do the discussions and the deliberations happen within the people's house so that we can actually legislate in a thoughtful way. each of your testimony gave rise to some good suggestions in that regard and i'm certainly very grateful for it.
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thank you for your testimony. without objection, all members will have five legislative dayed to submit written questions and i would ask each of the witnesses to please respond as promptly as you are able. without objection, all members will have five legislative days within to commit extraneous materials to the chair for inclusion in the record. i also want to express gratitude. we're squatting in the house administration committee's committee room and i want to express my gratitude to them and their staff for letting us do this and all of the staff who have helped us make it through today and are recording the activities. thank you for that. that's actually also really important to adding transparency to that too. so thank you for that. and with that, we're adjourned.
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