Key Senators Unveil Sweeping Reform Plan
A BIPARTISAN group of United States senators is pushing ahead with proposals to bring major reform to the Congress, despite resistance from House Democrats.
Sen. David Boren (D) of Oklahoma and Sen. Pete Domenici (R) of New Mexico were scheduled yesterday to release a sweeping plan. They want to reduce considerably the number of committees and subcommittees in the Senate and to dramatically reduce staff levels.
House Democrats vow that they will also craft a reform measure before the end of the year. But there is skepticism among House Republicans and in the Senate that the House reforms will be significant.
The Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress held more than 100 hours of hearings earlier this year on dozens of proposals to make the legislative branch operate more effectively.
The committee, made up of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans from both the House and Senate, was supposed to mark up its reform package by September. The effort stalled, however, and even some Democrats are blaming their own House members for failing to agree to significant changes.
On the Senate side, the Boren-Domenici package would make dramatic changes. Sources indicate the proposal would limit the number of committees and subcommittees upon which each member could serve. The limits could effectively reduce the number of committees by four, and the number of subcommittees by 34, a source says. Other proposed reforms:
* Bringing Congress under the same laws that apply to the private sector, such as health and safety regulations.
* Replacing the annual appropriations process with two-year budgeting.
* Creating an ethics panel that would include nonmembers of Congress.
One hang-up in the House appeared to be a reform that would give minority Republicans better representation on committees in proportion to their membership in the full House. Some House Democrats also oppose a two-year budget cycle.