Tom Graves

Georgia lawmakers share bipartisan embrace on House floor

Rep. Tom Graves, left, Sen. Johnny Isakson, middle, Rep. John Lewis, right, sit on the House floor during a tribute to the Georgia senator Tuesday. (Screenshot via House Recording Studio)

While impeachment hearings consumed the Capitol on Tuesday, about 1,000 feet away there was a rare sight: A senator listening to speeches on the House floor.

But Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., wasn't on the wrong side of the Capitol —the speeches were about him. Thirteen members of the House delegation from Georgia shared stories of how they first met the senator, moments that exemplified bipartisanship and more in an hour-long tribute organized by Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga.

House leaders give modernization panel more time
A second year of work ahead for committee that seeks to make Congress more efficient

Chairman Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., right, and vice chairman Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., are seen during a Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress meeting in the Capitol in March. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Like most any fixer-upper endeavor, renovating Congress for the modern era will take at least a year longer than originally planned.

The House’s temporary Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress is on track to get more time to finish its effort to update the legislative branch amid the increasing political polarization of the 2020 elections. The House Rules Committee approved a rule Wednesday extending the modernization panel through next year. The full chamber voted Thursday, making the extension official.

Some lawmakers question amount of time spent in committees
How sustainable are members’ often packed and chaotic schedules?

California Rep. Mark DeSaulnier sits on four committees and seven subcommittees, one of the most packed rosters in the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House parliamentarian brought the hammer down on the Education and Labor Committee in April, ending a long-standing practice that allowed panel members from both parties to vote on bills in committee on a flexible schedule — a violation of the House ban on proxy voting.

Members say their schedules have become so hectic and compressed that the courtesy, which the committee has extended for years, is needed. But the practice raises a bigger question: How sustainable are members’ often packed and chaotic schedules?

Staff security clearances may vex House Intelligence members
Rank-and-file members likely have no aides to consult on the most sensitive information in impeachment probe

House Intelligence member Jackie Speier has called for panel members to have one personal staffer with TS/SCI clearance. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rank-and-file members of the House Intelligence Committee, who are at the nucleus of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, likely have no personal aides to consult on the most sensitive information handled in the high-stakes probe.

The two Californians who lead the panel, Chairman Adam B. Schiff and ranking Republican Devin Nunes, have staff with Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information Security Clearance, also known as TS/SCI clearance. But other lawmakers on the committee traditionally have not had personal staff with such a clearance.

With impeachment churning, Modernization panel urges civility
Ex-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood suggests leaders plan bipartisan retreat and weekly dinners

Modernization committee leaders Derek Kilmer, right, and Tom Graves say their panel “has set a new standard for collaboration on Capitol Hill.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As impeachment and partisan politics rage on Capitol Hill, one congressional panel spent Thursday morning brainstorming ways to promote civility and collaboration among lawmakers.

The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress almost seemed like it inhabited an alternate Congress from the one where, at the same time, Speaker Nancy Pelosi outlined plans for an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump and the House Intelligence Committee probed a whistleblower complaint central to that effort.

Sen. Johnny Isakson to resign at the end of 2019
Georgia Republican has Parkinson’s disease, faces other health challenges

Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, right, cited health challenges in announcing his intention to resign at the end of the year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Johnny Isakson announced Wednesday that he will resign his Senate seat at the end of the year, setting up a potentially competitive race in 2020 in a key electoral state. 

The Georgia Republican, who chairs both the Veterans’ Affairs and Ethics committees, has Parkinson’s disease and has been recovering from a fall that took place in July. A statement from Isakson’s office also said the senator had a surgical procedure earlier this week in Marietta, Georgia, to remove a carcinoma from one of his kidneys.

Modernization panel calls for staffer HR hub, mandatory cybersecurity training
Package of recommendations is ‘really a big deal,’ Graves says

Rep. Tom Graves, the top Republican on the Modernization Select Committee, applauded the bipartisan work to approve two dozen recommendations Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress unanimously approved two dozen recommendations Thursday, urging lawmakers to create a centralized human resources hub for staffers, resurrect the Office of Technology Assessment and make cybersecurity training mandatory.

The recommendations, the second batch for the one-year panel, also included making permanent the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, updating the staff payroll system to semimonthly, creating a Congressional Leadership Academy to train lawmakers and reestablishing the OTA, which would advise Congress on technology matters.

The mountains between Congress and modernization

Chairman Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., right, and vice chairman Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., are seen during a Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress business meeting in the Capitol on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Time is running out for the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress to find bipartisan consensus on a variety of issues.

House doing ‘deep dive’ to smooth new member office setup
‘It’s been sort of a nightmare,’ House CAO Philip Kiko tells select committee

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and other members of the 116th Congress' freshman class had several issues getting their offices up and running, which has prompted a "deep dive" by the House Chief Administrative Officer to address the problems. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Office of the Chief Administrative Officer of the House is conducting a “deep dive” into the problems of setting up offices for the 116th Congress’ large freshman class, according to CAO Philip Kiko.

“It’s been sort of a nightmare,” Kiko told the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress during a Thursday hearing on ways to ease the transition for newly elected members.

House modernization leaders seek consensus despite hurdles
Select committee is a long way from solving institutional problems

Reps. Derek Kilmer, right, and Tom Graves, leaders of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, are seeking ways to improve congressional operations. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With 2019 half done, so is the lifespan of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. 

And the panel is still a long way from solving some of the big-scope institutional problems that House leaders asked it to. When it comes to some of the thornier political items — such as lawmaker pay raises and resurrecting earmarks — the panel is unlikely to agree.