House modernization committee offers final recommendations

Chairman Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), right, and vice chair William Timmons (R-S.C.) attend the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress markup hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021.

Chairman Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), right, and vice chair William Timmons (R-S.C.) attend the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress markup hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress passed its final seven recommendations ahead of the final month of the 117th Congress, among them a suggestion to continue its work as a permanent subcommittee.

The House select committee tasked with forging Congress' path to modernization passed its final recommendations Thursday, but as Republicans move to take over the chamber in January, there's a feeling among some that the committee's efforts could continue in the next session.

The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress voted to adopt seven recommendations on improving operations, amending travel-related expense rules and establishing a more consistent modernization presence on Capitol Hill.

The select committee — which formed nearly four years ago to help make Congress more effective, efficient and transparent — has offered 202 recommendations, 130 of which have so far been passed by the legislature. 

The body was established in January 2019 and is set to expire with the conclusion of the 117th Congress after having its term extended for a second year in November 2019.

But Daniel Schuman, policy director for technology nonprofit Demand Progress, said the select committee may live on in a new form when the 118th Congress convenes in January. 

"It looks like, although it's not sure, that the Republicans may continue on a version of the select committee as a subcommittee of the Committee on House Administration next Congress," he said. "I think if it was Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and another Democratic Congress, I think that would have been the end, but I think the Republicans are more inclined to continue on the work."

Schuman said there was a sense among some in the House Democratic leadership that the select committee had run its course and that it would have been unlikely to continue had the party won the chamber.

However, House Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has been an advocate for both process technology modernization issues, and the chatter on Capitol Hill is that there's support to bring the select committee back.

Zack Graves, executive director of the Lincoln Network, predicts the committee will return in some form.

"I think that's the most likely outcome, that it will be reconstituted as a subcommittee within the Committee on House Administration," he said. "Obviously, with a very slim majority, there's a lot of balls up in the air and chips to be traded, but I think that's really a likely outcome here."

Graves recently authored a report calling, in part, for the committee to be established as a "select subcommittee," which would be structured to include additional members representing stakeholders such as the House Rules Committee, the Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee.

"I think one of the challenges with the select committee structure is kind of a legislative authority and there's some overlap with some of those other committees I mentioned," Graves said. "I think there have been instances of toes being stepped on, whereas I think… [the Committee on House Administration] itself has a lot of jurisdiction."

To date, the select committee has passed 105 recommendations during the 117th Congress. Thursday's recommendations follow 24 passed by the select committee on Sept. 29.

It's unknown, as Republicans take over control of the House in January, exactly how future modernization efforts will take shape, but Vice Chair William Timmons (R-S.C.) said in a statement that the select committee's work demonstrates the bipartisan progress can be achieved on the operation of government. 

"As we report out the totality of our findings to the House, along with several additional recommendations to encourage ongoing modernization, I hope we continue to look for opportunities to collaborate and help ensure that the People's House remains well equipped to address our nation's most pressing issues," he said.  

Chairman Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) said in a statement that the American people deserve a Congress that works and the implementations of the reforms so far recommended is ongoing. 

"From day one, that has been the focus for our committee," he said. "And the recommendations we have made and the work that we've done – and will continue to do – to implement these reforms, move us closer to having a Congress that works better for the American people."