GOP rep calls for greater Rules transparency

GOP Rep. Steve King (Iowa) wants Democratic leaders to make the Rules Committee more "open and transparent" by requiring that the panel conduct its business on the House floor.

The outspoken critic of the way the committee holds hearings in a small room with limited access dropped a resolution to compel the 13-member panel to hold its hearings on the floor of the lower chamber.

King's resolution states that the "Committee on Rules shall conduct all of its meetings and hearings in the Hall of the House. All such meetings and hearings shall be open to the public and to coverage by audio and visual means unless disclosure of matters to be considered would endanger national security, would compromise sensitive law enforcement information, or otherwise would violate a law or rule of the House."

Nine Democrats and four Republicans appointed by their respective leadership sit on the panel, which has been described as the "Speaker's tool to control the floor." The ratio was reversed when Republicans were in power.

“The Nancy Pelosi-controlled rules committee is where, if there is going to be any debate [on a bill], it takes place there, however legitimate or not it may be,” King said in an interview with The Hill on Monday.

According to a veteran Rules Committee aide, King's resolution is flawed in that it does violate a "rule of the House" — the panel would only be able to meet when the House isn’t in session, even though the House has to be in session in order to have the committee file a rule.

Still, a spokesman for Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) says that Democrats will look at the resolution even though "this one makes no sense."

"We are willing to look at any resolution that gets reported to us, but this one makes no sense, is hypocritical, would slow the work of Congress, would upend the efficient committee structure and flies in the face of years of tradition — which, by the way, worked just fine when Republicans were in control of the House,” said spokesman Vince Morris.

Any legislation considered on the House floor must go through the Rules Committee, where it is decided if any amendments will be voted on during debate by the entire body and how long that debate will take place.

Even though the press is allowed to cover the hearings that take place in the “hole in the wall,” as King refers to the committee room, there’s barely enough space for members, staff and the media to sit and watch the deliberations, which can get lively without the presence of cameras.

Unlike most committee rooms, the Rules Committee does not have a camera used for live webcasting. The room has the capability to install an in-House camera feed, though, according to a leadership aide.

King says that it's not fair and hopes that his resolution will pick up steam when members return to work this week.

“The principle behind it is if the Rules Committee is going to conduct the business of the full House by setting the rules, then they need to do so completely in the full view of the public eye” on the floor, King said.