Instilling Transparency, Accountability, and Integrity in the US House of Representatives

Posted: Jun 07, 2017 11:42 AM

As a former staffer and now a member of Congress, one of my goals is to ensure this institution I have the incredible honor of serving in is transparent, efficient, and accountable to those we represent. After all, it is the People’s House.

As members of Congress, we have asked the American people to trust us with their hard-earned tax dollars so it’s critical that we lead by example and ensure each dollar we spend to operate our offices is done efficiently and to help serve our constituents.

At the start of my second term, I requested to serve on the Committee on House Administration, which has jurisdiction over two main areas: federal elections and day-to-day operations in the House. It’s not the most well-known or sought-after committee, but it’s extremely important to legislating. Under the leadership of former House Administration Chairman Candice Miller and now Chairman Gregg Harper, I’ve had the opportunity to work with them to make the House the most transparent and accountable entity within the federal government.

In 2015, I led a bipartisan review of the way House members spend their individual office allowances.  This seven-month review led to the House Administration Committee adopting major reforms to increase transparency, implementing greater spending controls, and providing more clarity for members and their staff.

For the first time ever, the public can find each House member’s quarterly expenditures online in a searchable database – translation, you can see exactly what your representative is spending his or her office allowance on. This level of transparency is only available in the House. The same is not required of the Senate or the other two branches of government. Additionally, we adopted reforms that put extra layers of protections in place for large purchases on things like office décor and travel to prevent the wasteful spending of tax dollars. To help further these reforms, we’ve instituted more educational opportunities for members and their staff to make understanding and complying with House rules as seamless as possible.

As public servants, we took an oath to faithfully execute this office and uphold the Constitution. With that, I believe comes a level of personal responsibility and honesty that should be required of every lawmaker.

It was concerning to me to learn that a member who resigned from Congress because of a scandal and then was convicted and served time in jail for crimes related to their office is still eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits are meant for hard-working, honest taxpayers, not those trying to cheat the system. The people who trusted us to represent them deserve better.

I recently introduced the Protecting Taxpayers from Corruption Act to bar convicted members of Congress from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Currently, members of Congress are subject to the same Department of Labor (DoL) process and eligibility requirements as any other federal worker who applies for workers’ compensation but I believe we should be held to a higher standard.

The Protecting Taxpayers from Corruption Act would hold members of Congress to a higher standard by listing 29 offenses related to a member’s service, including stealing campaign funds, that, if convicted, would render them ineligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. These are similar to the offenses that would trigger a member of Congress ineligible to receive pension benefits. Additionally, this bill increases transparency by requiring the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the House to provide an annual report on the number of members receiving workers’ compensation benefits to the Committee on House Administration.

We have a duty to those we represent to faithfully execute this office and I am committed to ensuring the House is guided by rules and regulations that instill integrity and accountability within this great institution.