A broad reorganization of the way the House operates, from restaurant management to committee staff size, is being proposed by a House Commission on Administrative Review.
Commission Chariman David Obey (D-Wis.) announced some 47 tentative recommendations designed to rationalize the administrative structure of the House, as well as to deal with such problems as junketing and sex discrimination.
One key recommendation would establish a House Administrator, under the control of the Speaker, with responsibility for "day to day" operation of the House.
Rep. Lloyd meeds (D-Wash.) said the Administrator would assume authority over functions now "splayed all over the landscape." Functions now performed by House officers such as the clerk, the doorkeeper and the segeant-at-arms would be given to the Administrator. He would also run a new comptroller's office and auditing office and be responsible for keeping bills, accounts and records.
The Administrator would also take over the operation of support services such as the restaurants, parking lots, beauty shop and property management, now run mostly be the House Administration Committee. This would "free" House members for more important work, Meeds said.
Meeds said the present system is "haphazard and confusing." For example, between the clerk and the architect, one provides lamps, the other fluorescent lamps, one provides rugs, the other wall coverings, one installs shelves, the other hangs drapes.
The Administrator would be nominated by the Speaker and confirmed by the House, and could only be fired by the Speaker backed up by the House Administration Committee. In addition, the Obey Commission recommends that the Democratic and Republican caucuses allow the two party leaders to nominate members of the House Adminstration Committee.
The effect would be to give the Speaker vast power over internal operations and the patronage and perquisites of House members. The Obey Commission was spawned by abuses of these in-house operations by former House Administration Committee Chairman Wayne Hays (D-Ohio), who resigned in the wake of revelations that he had put his mistress on the payroll.
Obey said a "census" of the House staff revealed widespread sex discrimination in pay. Male administrative assistants were paid an average of $39,000 a year, vs. $17,000 for women.
Male legislative assistants were paid an average of $20,000 a year vs. $11,000 for women, and male press aides were paid $20,000 a year vs. $17,000 for women.
Obey said the commission was making no specific recommendation on pay discrimination, which he said "reflects society," but he said the commission was recommending an affirmative action and recruiting program to be initiated by an expanded placement office.
A "grievance procedure" was also recommended. An employee could address a grievance to a new committee of three House members. However, the grievance would have to be kept confidential, and the committee would have no power of enforcement. It could only attempt to conciliate between the employee and the House member, and could refer a "clear violation" to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.
Obey stressed that the proposals were only tentative. He said the committee will meet this week to act on the recommendations and he hoped to have them on the House floor by October.
Provide each House member with a staffer to deal with the committees he serves on.
Put an overall cap on the growth of committee staff of 3 per cent per year.
"Support units" such as House restaurants, beauty shop, barber shops, recording studio and stationery store would not be charged rent or utility, but they would "have to charge prices that reflect the full cost of services," and cheap meals, haircuts and stationery would be discontinued.
The House would pay for more of its members' travel and report quarterly on the cost. Individual members would have to account for all money they received for overseas travel, but they would not be charged, for instance, for the use of military aircraft and the House would not pay for the use of military aircraft.
Portions of the architect's offices, campaign committees and other offices would be moved out of the Capitol and House office buildings.
Speeches inserted in the Congressional Record but not actually given on the floor would would have to be identified as such in the Record.
A select committee to reorganize the committee system would look into rationalizing committee jurisdictions and scaling down the number of committees a member serves on.