The GOP transition period – when the newly-elected Republican majority starts to run the House of Representatives – is like a campfire sing-along, combined with an ongoing public relations party. There’s also the very real possibility that it could actually mean something.
The process is straightforward: when newbie Congressmen get to Washington, there’s a lot of sorting-out to do. They need to figure out which Member gets which office, make sure the tallest staffer doesn’t get the shortest desk, and make sure the Member doesn’t get lost going to the restroom, among other things. “There’s a lot of paperwork they have to do,” according to Brian Darling, director of government relations at the Heritage Foundation.
There’s also the business of reaffirming things that Democrats spat all over during their time controlling the House: things like “proper oversight” “greater transparency” and “increasing efficiency.” Very important intentions can be declared, like whether bills will be written by the Speaker only, or if everyday Members will have a say in authoring them. The GOP transition team has talked about putting a camera in the Rules Committee, which is the only committee that doesn’t have a camera in it besides the intelligence committee. The Rules Committee could have a hand in taking apart Obamacare, so a camera would be nice to see if they’re actually making progress.
The fact is, however, that these things are simply declarations of intent until they are put into practice. Until a bill is actually authored by someone other than the Speaker, Republicans are really only talking about it. Until a camera is actually installed in the Rules Committee, it’s just a lot of talk.
That talk can certainly be important. The GOP transition team has declared its intention to make bills available for 72 hours before they are voted on – the same thing that President Obama did when he was elected. The President clearly failed to do this. Now, though, the GOP knows what kind of fire it will face if they fail as well. Just before the election, likely Republican Speaker John Boehner spent forty-five minutes at the American Enterprise Institute detailing his commitment to standards, accountability, and efficiency in the new Congress.
“No exceptions. No excuses,” he said. It’s clear that the Members who sit on the House GOP Majority Transition Team are just as committed.