Congressional Party Rules Should Be Online


In the run up to the 113th Congress, Democrats and Republicans are meeting separately in the House and Senate to set rules for members of their party. For those who are in the majority — Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate — the rules for their respective conferences (i.e. party) will affect how legislation emerges from the chamber, who chairs committees, and so on. For example, in the last congress the “ban” on earmarks in the House was accomplished through a rule adopted by the party, not a rule adopted by the House. But what are these rules?

It’s hard to know. Only the House Republican Conference has made its rules available to the public online, although the only ones available are for the 112th Congress. They’ve adopted a highly commendable transparency policy, “rule 29,” which states: “To the maximum extent practicable, the Chair shall make the text of matters adopted during the organizational conference held pursuant to rule 3 publicly available in electronic form.”

The House Democratic Caucus, the Senate Republican Conference, and the Senate Democratic Caucus do not make their conference rules available to the public. Although I was able to reach staffers at all 3 offices, none could give me an answer, and I’m still waiting for that return phone call.

This is too hard. The rules should be posted online.