Common Cause supports procedural reforms to assure all voices are heard in Congress

Common Cause President Chellie Pingree spoke at a Capitol Hill press conference Wednesday to support reform of procedures in the U.S. House to ensure that minority voices are heard in the legislative process.

Pingree came out to support efforts by Rep. Martin Meehan (D-MA) to address a troubling pattern of abuse that has emerged in recent years that has effectively denied a voice to tens of millions of Americans in Washington.

Common Cause has recognized that too often the legislative process is being carried out behind closed doors, and rules are being bent or broken. Votes on important issues, like Medicare or the Patriot Act, are being held open far beyond their 15-minute limit to allow House leaders to change enough votes to get the results they seek. Conference committees designed for working out differences between the House and Senate might never meet, and if they do, their staffs hammer out the bills away from the scrutiny of the public eye. Amendments proposed by minority parties are routinely killed by the Rules Committee, often in late-night or pre-dawn meetings. For a compelling look at how badly the process was ignored during the Medicare bill, read Common Cause’s report, “Democracy on Drugs, The Medicare Prescription Drug Bill: A study in how government shouldn’t work.”

“This package of procedural changes should launch the debate that we hope leads to much-needed reforms,” Pingree said, referring to Meehan’s proposal. “At a time when citizens need protection from terror, access to better health care and opportunities for economic stability, debate on these and other issues must not be hampered by a lack of respect for congressional procedure, and all voices must be heard.”

Pingree joined Meehan at the press conference with other members of Congress, including Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen and Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21.