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21st century Congress : hearing before the Subcommittee on Rules and Organization of the House of the Committee on Rules, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, on legislating in the 21st century, May 24, 1996 online

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on Rules21st century Congress : hearing before the Subcommittee on Rules and Organization of the House of the Committee on Rules, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, on legislating in the 21st century, May 24, 1996 → online text (page 1 of 7)
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Y 4,R 86/1; C 76/17

21st Century Congress, Hearing; 104... j^










MAY 24, 1996

Printed for the use of the Committee on Rules

JUH 1, t3S7

38-560CC WASHINGTON : 1996

For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
ISBN 0-16-054316-9



Y4.R 86/1; C 76/17

21st Century Congress. Hearing; 104... j^










MAY 24, 1996

Printed for the use of the Committee on Rules

' ^^r^r'r^^^TTTl — "


JUH t, jgS7


38-560CC WASHINGTON : 1996

For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
ISBN 0-16-054316-9


GERALD B.H. SOLOMON, New York, Chairman




SCOTT McINNlS, Colorado

Don Wolpensbercer, Chief of Staff

GEORCK C. Crawtord, Minority Sta/f Director

Bryan H. Roth, Clerk


PORTER GOSS, Florida, Chairman



Wendy Sbuo, Countel
KriOTI WalSETH, Minority Staff Director


DAVID DREIER, California, Chairman



Vincent Randazzo. Counsel
MEU88A RlCS KUCKRO. Minority Counsel



Opening statement of Hon. David Dreier, diairman of the Subcommittee

on Rules and Organization of the House 1

Opening statement of Hon. Anthony Beilenson, a member of the Subcommit-
tee on Rules and Organization of the House 3
Opening statement of Hon. Porter J. Gosa, a member of the Committee

on RmeSf 4

Statement of.

Ehlers, Hon. Vernon J., a Representative in Congress from the State

of Michigan 6

Flahaven. Patridi E., Secretaiv of the Senate, Minnesota State Senate,

via videoconferenoe (preparea statement p. 14) 11

Eisenach, JeOrev A., President, Senior Fellow, and Cofounder of the

Progress and Freedom Foundation (prepared statement p. 19) IS

Frantzich, Stephen, Chair of the Department of PoliticaT Sdenoe at the
U.S. Naval Academy (prepared statement p. 26) 23



Friday, May 24, 1996

House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Rules of the House, Committee on

Washington, D.C.

The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10 a.m. in Room
2318, Ravbum House Office Building, Hon. David Dreier [chairman
of the subcommitt,ee] presiding.

Present: Representatives Dreier, Mclnnis (via videoconference
from Pueblo, Cfolorado), and Beilenson.

Also Present: Representative Goss.

Mr. Dreier. The subcommittee will come to order. I am very
pleased to welcome all of you to the 21st Century and to convene
this historic hearing. It is, as you can see by the surroundings, a
wired, interactive hearing that will begin to examine the issue of
how information technology will transform the United States Con-

At the same time, I thought it relevant to the hearing that we
should experience and showcase some of these technologies that we
hope can make committee hearings more effective.

A member of the subcommittee, Mr. Mclnnis, who I see over
there, is participating via video conference from Pueblo, Colorado.
Also joining us from cyberspace is one of our hearing witnesses,
Mr. Patrick Flahaven from the State capitol of St. Paul, Minnesota.
I will go through an introduction of him when we get into this. He
is the Secretary of the Minnesota State senate.

Let me say that we are also privileged to have my colleague,
Vem Ehlers, here. All of the technologies that we are utilizing this
morning, videoconferencing, television coverage and Internet use,
are in use in some form or another bv a number of State legisla-
tures around the countiv. I am very pleased to welcome the Rank-
ing Minority Member, Mr. Beilenson, who has arrived.

We wanted to start the 21st Century punctually, Tony, and we
have got a place for you right over here.

I was mentioning the role that State legislatures have played. In
California, for example, people can watch the assembly hearings on
cable television and can call in and participate in the hearing. We
don't have the capability to do that here today, but we do have a
Web site, which I actually mentioned on C-SPAN a few minutes
ago; and I used the incorrect address to access that, and I am going
to correct that now. It is www.house.gov/rules_org/21home.html. I
have almost gotten that committed to memory.


It explains what this hearing is about and allows us to receive
public feedback as we examine this issue over the next several

We also have an e-mail address so that people watching the
hearing on C-SPAN can contact us directly with comments and
questions, and that address is [email protected], C-Y-B-E-R-R-E-P.

Anybody who has spent a great deal of time in Congress or
studying the Congress has developed an appreciation and an un-
derstanding for the language of the Hill. Terms such as previous
question, closure, germaneness, motion to recommit, budget author-
ity, five-minute rule and so on are certainly familiar to those of us
who are members of the Rules Committee and those who follow the
proceedings here. But as we approach this new millennium, a new
language of the Hill is taking hold. It includes such terms as
Internet, networks, open systems, client server systems and graphi-
cal user interfaces, to name just a few.

If the experience of other organizations holds true, these new
terms and the technologies they describe will fundamentally alter
the customs, operations and responsibilities of the United States
Congress. There are a number of factors driving Congress' invest-
ment in new information technologies. Our newer colleagues are
demanding the efficiencies and flexibility that come from cost-re-
ducing and time-saving technologies that most organizations across
the country benefit from.

At the same time, the American people are demanding realtime
access to information so that they can play a more meaningful role
in making government work better. Technology can help us bridge
the gap of time and distance to bring representative government
closer to the people. It can help us to create a more orderly process
and to reduce costs and bureaucracy. But at the same time, mis-
applied technology can exacerbate inequities in our political sys-
tem, maintain those aspects of the status quo that require change
and undermine the nature of representative government that has
served our country so well over the past two centuries.

This is the beginning of a long-term effort to determine how we
can ensure that technology is used effectively and responsibly. The
goal is to determine how we can meet the internal demand for
more flexibility and efficiency and the external public demand for
increased access to Congress and its information, while maintain-
ing the Jeffersonian tradition of representative democracy and the
decorum and deliberative nature of the House.

We have with us a number of witnesses, as I have said at the
outset, who have a great deal of experience on the issue of tech-
noloffi^ and the impact of those on legislative institutions.

Before recognizing the Ranking Minority Member, Mr. Beilenson,
let me describe how I hope we will be able to proceed with the
hearing. Unless there is an objection, I would like to recognize the
witnesses as one panel. And each witness has been asked to sum-
marize their statements in 5 minutes, afler which we would pro-
ceed somewhat informally with a discussion unencumbered by the
5-minute rule. In other words, if you have something to say, we are
going to ask those who are out there in cyberspace to just speak
up. This is a voice-activated system. It is an alternative hearing
format that I think will provide the opportunity for a better free-

flow discussion. And I know it is somewhat awkward with all of
this equipment around, and we are with the traditional committee
structure that we had hoped that we would not have. We were ac-
tually hoping to be sitting at the lower level there.

And I should say also that I am sorry that my colleague, the
Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Bill Thomas, could
not be here. He has spent a great deal of time working on this, and
he and Mr. Ehlers work closely on these issues. And also I am very
sorry that the Speaker of the House, who had hoped to be here,
commg by videoconference from Florida, is unable to be here be-
cause of technical problems that we have had. He very much want-
ed to participate, and as recently as yesterday told me that he
hoped to be able to be following the Cfongress' move towards the
third-wave information-based society, something in which he has a
little interest. And so he is sorry that he can't be here.

My colleague from California, Tony Beilenson, has chosen to re-
tire from the Congress before the millennium and this may have
something to do with it. We are very pleased that he has brought
his decades of expertise to this hearing, and we look forward to his
input. And I am happy to call on my dear friend from California.

Mr. Beilenson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Dreier. You have to hit the switch, Tony. That's something
that's new for the 21st Century.

Mr. Beilenson. This is a little daunting, Mr. Chairman. This is
not the reason I am leaving, but if I had Known about this, I per-
haps would have left a little earlier.

I commend our chairman, Mr. Dreier, for holding this hearing on
the use of advanced technology in Congress, a new topic for the
Rules Committee, I believe. Ajtid I join with him in welcoming our
distinguished witnesses, who have so graciously agreed to be here
with us this morning. We look forward to learning more about the
communications technologies that currently exist, as well as those
that are anticipated in the not-too-distant future. Some of these de-
vices appear to offer excellent prospects for helping us run our of-
fices more efficiently and effectively and for improving operations
here in the Congress generally.

At the same time, tne rapid advances in the kinds of technology
that are now or will soon be available to Congress pose tremendous
new challenges and questions for us. We need to be sure that we
have the best possible process for determining which types of
equipment are best suited for our legislative offices, are the most
cost-effective and are the least likely to become quickly outmoded.
We need to be wary of the excitement generated by some of the
new technologies and not let that entice us to invest huge amounts
of taxpayers' money on equipment we don't really need or, worse,
on equipment that is actually detrimental to our work.

The danger of some of these new technologies is that they could
increase pressures to make changes in the le^slative process that
we may well come to regret. It is easy to imagine, for example, that
if a secure system for remote voting is within reach technologically,
our leaders will face enormous demands from members to be per-
mitted to vote from their districts, something that would change
the very nature of Congress very much, I believe, for the worse. Or
if it is technically possible to participate in two meetings at once —

one in person, the other by checking in periodically by video — there
would be two obvious pitfalls. One is that the member would be
trying to concentrate on two different subjects, giving neither one
the full attention it needs. The other is that we will be facing in-
creasing demands to be several places at one time, so to speak,
making our often frantic lives even more so. Thus, installing
videoconferencing equipment in the Capitol complex in a well-
meaning attempt to make it possible for Members to participate in
more meetings could, in fact, encourage behavior that is damaging
to the deliberative process.

And, finally, I personally worry about losing the essence of com-
munication and the real understanding that results from that
through the increased use of advanced technologies.

We have one witness who will be testifying today from Min-
nesota, which is great in some ways. We will get the benefit of his
expertise without incurring the cost of a flight to Washington, but
I imagine it will be harder to engage in the give and take of ques-
tioning with him than it will be with the witnesses who are here
with us in person. And I imagine it will be more difficult for our
colleague and friend, Mr. Mclnnis, to be fully engaged in the hear-
ing if he is participating by video than if he were here in person.

If holding hearings by videoconference becomes a common prac-
tice, my sense is that the lack of face-to-face and personal contact
is likely to make hearings even less substantive and less delibera-
tive than many, unfortunately, already are. I do hope that through
the course of this hearing our witnesses will give us their best ad-
vice on how we can help ensure that these technologies operate for
the benefit rather than to the detriment of the men and women
who serve in Congress, of the legislative process and, most impor-
tantly, of course, of the people that we are elected to represent.

Thanks very much, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Dreier. Thank you very much, Mr. Beilenson.

And I have to say that I am very pleased to have the Chairman
of the Legislative and Budget Process Subcommittee, who has
taken the time from his schedule to join us; and I would like to call
on Mr. Gross.

Oh, I am sorry. Before I do that — we are dealing with tech-
nology — the little hissing that we hear apparently is coming from
our friend — the microphone of our friend, Mr. Flahaven, in Min-

Let me say to you, Mr. Secretary, if you could hit the mute but-
ton on the microphone there, I am tola that it will not create the
noise that we are getting here in the committee room. Apparently,
they have been trying to call you so they have relied on me to com-
municate with you.

Perfect. Sounds great now.

I thought it did. How did we do? Okay.

Mr. Goss.

Mr. Goss. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is with some sense of
wonderment that I am here watching all of this work. I want to
thank you for your initiative and creativity on this.

I think every Member of Congress is probably suffering from in-
formation overload, and any ways that we can deal with that more
effectively are going to be very important, especially since tech-

nology is going to bring more information to us. How we screen and
handle that and how we use technology to help us, rather than to
work against us, is ^oing to be very important, and I will come
back to that point in just a second.

I listened very closely to what my colleague and good friend from
California said, and I share a little bit of the concern that we be-
come too robotic in our life, not just here but as more and more
technology comes across our life; and those of us who are a little
older have to cope with it and learn new skills every day.

But I firmly believe that Congress is never going to be put on
autopilot. That is just not going to happen. Mavbe some people
think it is a good idea; I don't. I think this is a deliberative body.
It is very much the people's House. The interest and awareness
that technology offers for people will help us overcome apathy in
our country, and we all decry the small amount of voter turnout
that happens quite often in our national elections. So maybe, in
fact, we can steer this all in a way that we can create more interest
and more participation at the ballot box. And that, of course, is
healthy for democracy.

In terms of education, we all agree that it is important that peo-
ple know what is going on on the Hill and in Washington. That is
a critical factor. We all want an informed and well-educated elec-
torate. We want them to know what they are casting their ballots
for when they go and not just be subject to the 2-minute sound bite
or the 30-second sound bite or, even worse, the talking heads and
the anchors of the broadcast networks who are guiding and mold-
ing opinions and people leave it at that when mere is always so
much more behind the news.

And I guess the final area, the area that really attracted my in-
terest today, was this question of secrecy and accountability. I
think that technology offers us a great opportunity for offense, but
clearly we have got to have some defense in it, too. And I am re-
minded of this because we had a very interesting and controversial
vote yesterday in the House, and I got a lot of unprintable,
untraceable input. And so I am very interested in how we use this
technology so that there will always be accountability to those peo-
ple who are sending messages, as well. And, of course, I serve on
the Intelligence Committee. I am very concerned in terms of our
national security about protecting whatever technology we have, to
make sure that it is used properlv and not abused.

Having said all of that, I am delighted that there is such a stel-
lar array of witnesses coming before us, as well as such a stellar
array of Members of Congp-ess participating.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Dreier. You are certainly among them, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you very much for being here.

And let's now charge ahead with my very good friend, Vern
Ehlers, who is President of the House Republican Sophomore Class
and Chairman of the House Oversight Committee s Information
Systems working group and what I saw — ^he describes himself as
a Trekkie or something. I don't know exactly what the term that
you used, Vern, is, but we know that you are an expert on all of
this stuff that is around us, and so we are very privileged to have
you here.


Mr. Ehlers. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think the phrase was
techie, not Trekkie.

Mr. Dreier. I come from Cahfomia, you know.

Mr. Ehlers. My ears look too normal to be a Trekkie.

It is a pleasure to be here, and I do congratulate you in setting
up this what is, in a sense, an experiment in precisely the topic we
are discussing today.

I will try to summarize my comments in 5 minutes, since I did
not have time to prepare written testimony,

Mr. Dreier. Vern, you know, we are moving ahead here. Vince
just told me that I failed to recognize my colleague, Scott Mclnnis,
who is in Pueblo, Colorado.

There you go, Tony. The fact that he is not sitting right here and
I am looking at Minnesota, yes, Tony just said out of sight, out of
mind. Well, we need another screen.

Would you mind if before you went into your 5 minutes I recog-
nized Scott Mclnnis?

Mr. Ehlers. Very well.

Mr. Dreier. Can we see Pueblo, Colorado, pop up there. All we
are looking at is Minnesota now.

Scott, if you can hear me, you have got to turn your mike on.
That is the way you will pop up here.

Mr. MclNNls. I'm on.

Mr. Dreier. Okay. We can hear you, but we can't see you.

Mr. McInnis. Let me say —

Mr. Dreier. Speak up, Scott, and keep talking and you should
pop onto the screen here. We are trying to prove Tony Beilenson

Mr. MclNNls. First of all, Mr. Chairman —

Mr. Beilenson. It sounds like Scott.

Mr. McInnis. — don't be concerned, Mr. Chairman, that because
I am out of your sight I am going to be out of your mind. I am here
and looking forward —

Mr. Dreier. There we are. We see vou now, Scott.

Mr. McInnis. I am here in Colorado. Sitting to my left is Dr. Joe
May, who is the President of Pueblo Community College. This is
a very exciting event for us today in Colorado.

As many of my colleagues know — and I send my greetings to Mr.
Beilenson, of course, Mr. Goss, Mr. Chairman, yourself, Mr. Ehlers
and other Members. As you know, we were all together about 10
hours ago. I have now since come out to Colorado. We in this com-
munity are excited because it allows us to participate.

Now, we are in a remote section out in rural America. My district
is one of the largest districts in the country. In fact, we have prob-
ably 56 mountains over 14,000 feet and my district alone, just my
district, is larger than the State of Florida. So communication and
the advanced technology, Mr. Chairman, that we are about to dis-
cuss today, I think holds a very, very exciting future, because we
are going to be able to take a lot of what we do in Washington and
place it into the small communities, the communities of Grand
Junction or clear up in Meeker, Colorado, or southwestern Colorado

down in the mountains and the plains, or over in Summit County,
or here as we are doing in Pueblo, Colorado.

So we look forward to that. Again, this communication, Mr.
Chairman, I think is going to be key.

Mr. Goss' points and Mr. Beilen son's points are very well taken.
We are at the very beginning stages of this type of communication,
so there are a lot of things tnat we are going to have to work out.
There are a lot of bugs that we are going to have go in and sort
out. But it is a thrill to be out here in Colorado. And as a result
of our communication today, I am able to participate in a commu-
nity meeting and yet be able to travel in my district.

Mind you, to get across my district will take several hours of fly-
ing. Today I will be able to participate in four or five local commu-
nity events here in Pueblo, Colorado. I am able to go on to another
community called Canyon City, and then fly over halfway across
the State to Grand Junction to participate in an event there to-
night, and yet participate in the community meeting there with you
in Washington, D.C.

So, Mr. Chairman, I look forward to the meeting. I want to thank
Dr. May and Pueblo Community College, a great institution out
here in Colorado, for allowing us to use these facilities. And I am
surrounded — ^it may not be on camera but I am surrounded by sev-
eral members of the community who are — wanted to come down
and see this. This is exciting news for us in Colorado, Mr. Chair-
man. Thank you for allowing us to participate.

Mr. Dreier. Well, thank you very much, Scott. Thank you. Dr.
May, for hosting us at Pueblo Community College.

Now, let's charge ahead with our colleague, Mr. Ehlers. Sorry for
that, Vem.

Mr. Ehlers. Absolutely no problem. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Dreier. Thank you.

Mr. Ehlers. Just, first of all, a very brief history of my involve-
ment in this. When I came to the Congress in 1994, within a week
after I was here, Mr. Gingrich asked me to try to help bring the
Republican Conference up to speed in computer matters. He be-
came aware of my history of computerizing the Michigan Senate
and asked me to repeat that experience here. In 1995, he — we man-
aged to fulfill his pledge to the American public of putting docu-
ments on the Internet. While he was giving his inaugural speech,
after being sworn in as the new Speaker, we flipped the switch and
the House documents that were ready on the computer were made
available over the Internet.

In addition, he asked me to develop a plan to computerize the
House, which has resulted in the CyberCongress plan, which we
are now in the process of implementing. And by the end of this
year, we hope to have in place a good hardware and software infi-a-
structure which can serve as a basis for growth in the future.

The objective of what we are trying to do, first of all, is to have
all of the materials, documents, et cetera, available to both the
Members and the public as soon as possible after they are pre-
pared. We are hoping to develop a common messaging system and

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on Rules21st century Congress : hearing before the Subcommittee on Rules and Organization of the House of the Committee on Rules, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, on legislating in the 21st century, May 24, 1996 → online text (page 1 of 7)