Picture this: It is the first Tuesday in March. Secretary of State James A. Baker III is standing in the well of the House answering questions from members of both parties for two hours. There is a certain amount of decorum since Baker received the questions a week in advance, but the follow-up exchanges get a little heated.

Yes, it's "Question Time," modeled on the parliamentary give-and-take that C-SPAN viewers have seen former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and now, the new head of government, John Major, endure.

It may not happen this March. In fact, the odds are that it won't happen at all. But the House Rules Committee has agreed to study a resolution by Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D-Conn.) to amend House rules "to authorize the speaker to declare the House resolved into the Committee of the Whole House in order to provide a period of time in which members of the president's Cabinet would appear and respond to questions submitted by members of the House."

Political scientist Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute sees the proposal, which has cropped up in other incarnations before, in part as an expression of tension between two branches of government. "{Presidential counsel} Boyden Gray and his team are always thinking of ways to chip away at Congress's power," Ornstein said. "This is a counterpunch by Congress. But there is no congressional right to a question-and-answer time with the executive branch any more than there is a presidential right to a line-item veto."

For Gejdenson, his proposal is a way to "focus Americans on the problems before them," to bring information out of "the jabber in the background."

"How do we end up with 37 million people without health care in this country?" Gejdenson asked. "This ought to be discussed. The secretary of health and human services ought to be asked to explain this."

Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) agreed. "We have a need to call to account the Cabinet heads and have some kind of exchange that informs the country of their approach to the job and how the opposition sees it."

But British-born Tony Blankley, an aide to House Minority Leader Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), said transplanting a question period "offends my sense of constitutionality. They are colleagues in Britain. Here it would be an intrusion on the separation of powers."

In Britain, everyone in the cabinet, including the prime minister, are elected members of Parliament and, as such, are appearing before their peers.

Thomas E. Mann, director of governmental studies at the Brookings Institution finds the proposal "a less efficient way of doing what is already done now. . . . We already have an information overload" -- committee testimony, speeches and news conferences.

However, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said, "Committee hearings are useful, but this is more. Committees are not wholly representative of Congress."

In addition, Frank said, "Cabinet members don't necesarily show up for hearings." He cited his frustration as a member of the Banking Committee in trying to bring Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady before the panel to discuss funding for the Resolution Trust Corporation.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp, a former House member, said he would "welcome a rules change. I think it is a great idea. It's a very small 'd' democratic thing to do."

But Mann thinks that a question time would be "a big non-event."

"Why don't they get involved in some serious things?" he asked. "Of all the problems in government today, the so-called problem of a lack of interaction between Congress and Cabinet secretaries ranks mighty low -- about No. 47."

While doubtful of its prospects, Ornstein applauds the proposal. "It starts a process of how we can get a better dialogue between the president and Congress and get the public to pay more attention," he said. "And it would be great television."

Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) sees a political ploy at work here. "Lest there be any misapprehension, the legislative idea is to embarrass the executive branch," he said. "And lest there be any naivete, the executive branch has a great capacity to turn the tables, just look at Maggie Thatcher."

Leach added, "I am a legislator; I'm charmed by the idea. But I am confident the executive branch will turn this down with a guffaw."

It certainly will, said one White House official, who sees question time only as an "opportunity to put Daniel into the lion's den with Daniel getting eaten every time."

"So what?" Frank responded. "We're not running the government for the convenience of the governors."

Gejdenson, who insisted his proposal is not an exercise "to sandbag" Cabinet members, said, "Yes, there will be moments of anxiousness. But if they can't answer the questions, they shouldn't be where they are."