Reform the House Rules - Now!

Heritage Foundation Distinguished Fellow and self-described "recovering Congressman" Ernest Istook (Amen, brother!) has a plan that must be implemented by the House Republican Conference next week when it sets its rules for how the Republican majority and the House will be governed in the next Congress.

Istook writes that Congress needs a "reconfiguration of the power structure to bring about a broad-based, bottom-up House of Representatives [that] would jibe with the Constitutional design of a true ‘people's House.'"

Read the Heritage policy paper he and his colleagues authored. The introduction explains the rush:

Immediately after the congressional elections of November 2, new Members and re-elected Members of both parties will gather to meet (caucus) and vote on new leaders and enact internal party rules. Long before the House adopts its formal rules in January, these internal party rules will determine the allocation of power within Congress between leadership, committee and subcommittee chairmen, and rank-and-file Members.

We recommend reforms of both parties' internal caucus rules in order to reverse the decades-long trend whereby House leaders have acquired enormous power at the expense of rank-and-file Members.

As I wrote earlier this week, two Republican revolutions failed to return America to constitutionally limited small government. Statism must be de-institutionalized.

Heritage, under Mr. Istook's wisdom and experience, recommends four reforms in particular that would de-institutionalize the power structure in the House of Representatives:

The steering committee, rather than party leaders, should select all committee chairmen and members (including Rules, Administration, "select," and "joint" committees).

Party leaders should no longer dominate or control the steering committee. In practice, this would dispense with the allotment of multiple steering committee slots to party leaders and would allow rank-and-file Representatives to nominate and elect the controlling votes on each steering committee.

Term limits should apply to all House and party leaders, including the Speaker, as well as to committee chairmen and ranking members.

A cap should be placed on the overall size of each committee-such as a 50-member maximum-to avoid scenarios where committees wield a disproportionate amount of influence over the House

The 1994 Gingrich Revolution produced 72 freshman representatives. The 2010 election sends 84 freshmen to Congress. The dynamics are different, but also the same.
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