May 23, 2019

Select Committee Unanimously Approves Package of Recommendations to “Open Up” Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (“Select Committee”) today unanimously approved their first round of bipartisan congressional recommendations focusing on transparency in the legislative branch. The recommendations aim to give the American public greater access to the inner-workings of Congress.

“Transparency in Congress promotes more accountability to our constituents, and that’s a good thing,” said Chairman Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Vice Chairman Tom Graves (R-GA). “These bipartisan recommendations are just the first step towards making the legislative branch more effective and accessible for the American people.”

Earlier this month, the Select Committee held a hearing titled “Opening up the Process: Recommendations for Making Legislative Information More Transparent.” Joined by four expert witnesses on government accountability and transparency, the committee discussed and highlighted transparency efforts underway in the House, the value of making legislative information more transparent, and the effect of transparency on the deliberative process in Congress. Many of the recommendations included in today’s package stemmed from these conversations. The Select Committee Members also solicited comments and suggestions from their colleagues. Throughout the year, the Select Committee will host similar hearings and conversations to make Congress work better for the American people.

The recommendations approved today will be written into a report and sent to the respective committees of jurisdiction for next steps. The Select Committee plans to offer additional recommendations on a rolling basis throughout the remainder of the year.

To learn more about the Select Committee, please click here.

The approved Transparency Recommendations can be seen below: 

  1. Adopting one standardized format for drafting, viewing, and publishing legislation to improve transparency and efficiency throughout the lawmaking process.

Specifically…Develop a plan for the adoption of US Legislative Markup (USLM) throughout the lawmaking process. The plan would incorporate timeline for use by the House Legislative Counsel, members’ offices, leadership, and committees. Such an approach would help members, staff, and the American public have access to changes, visualizations, and analysis of legislative text. Printing and publishing processes would also be made more efficient.

  1. Providing resources to finish legislation comparison project on schedule and train staff to vastly improve the American public’s ability to understand how amendments change legislation, and the impact of proposed legislation to current law.

Specifically…The Clerk’s Office is on track to meet their Phase 2 (August 2019) and Phase 3 (3rd quarter 2020) deadlines. The main issues of concern are making sure that 1) CAO is prepared/ready to install the comparative print software on staff computers, and 2) staff are properly trained in using the comparative print software. Support would include ensuring that the Clerk’s Office is ready to handle these anticipated challenges to implement the comparative print program.

  1. Modernizing the lobbying disclosure system to improve the filing process and more easily find and track individual disclosures.

Specifically…Direct the Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate to update the lobbying disclosure system in general and generate a Congress-wide unique identifier for lobbyists and disclosing that identifier to the public as structured data as part of the lobbying disclosure downloads.

  1. Developing a centralized, electronic HUB that would list all federal agency and program reauthorization expiration dates, by committee.

Specifically…Congress has increasingly failed to regularly update the authorization of federal agencies and programs. Centralizing agency and program reauthorization dates provides members, staff, and the public with easy-to-access information about the current status of executive branch programs and the committees that are responsible for authorizing those programs.

  1. Developing a centralized, electronic HUB of committee votes that would be accessible via and in machine readable format.

Specifically…Figuring out how a committee or its subcommittees voted on any bill or issue before the committee or its subcommittees can be prohibitively difficult. Each committee sets its own procedures for making this information publicly available. The information is public, yet it’s not easy to access by most Americans. Centralizing committee vote data in one place enhances transparency and ensures ease of access for the public.