The House Science and Technology Committee voted 37 to 0 yesterday to require that transcripts of its proceedings be published word for word, with members and staff barred from changing phrases or altering texts before the transcript goes to the printer.
The new rule, sponsored by Chairman Don Fuqua (D-Fla.), is believed to mark the first time in recent history that a House committee has adopted a verbatim-publication requirement. Committee aides said that until about 50 years ago it was generally House policy to print proceedings verbatim, but since then alterations for clarification and to improve grammar have become the practice.
Fuqua said he was sponsoring the rule in an effort to assure a fair and unaltered record of future proceedings. The change arose in part from recent charges that the transcript of an environmental hearing last year involving subcommittees of three House panels was altered in ways that made Republicans look foolish.
The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct is trying to determine who made the alterations.
Under the new House science committee rule, a member may insert a statement after the hearing if permission is obtained, and a witness can supply information for the record later, but spoken words in the text cannot be altered.
"If you said it's 'water under the bridge' and you meant to say 'water over the bridge,' you cannot change that," a staff member said, explaining the new rule.