Tom Graves

The fix-up-Congress committee takes on a fresh agenda for 2020
With impeachment done, modernization panel looks at more civility and new technology

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 in March 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It’s almost like an alternate universe.

Fresh off the bitterly partisan and acrimonious House impeachment vote, the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress approved a slate of recommendations Thursday including some aimed at boosting civility and bipartisanship in the legislative branch.  

Never mind impeachment, this bipartisan committee is going forward
House modernization panel prepares for its second year

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 earlier this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Amid the partisan polarization of impeachment, the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress began examining possible changes Thursday to the chamber’s rules and procedures, seeking out ideas to make the legislative branch function better. 

The panel, a temporary and bipartisan project to revamp Congress for the modern era, is tasked with offering recommendations about how to update technological savvy on Capitol Hill and how to improve the quality of work for lawmakers and staff. It began earlier this year as a one-year effort but will now carry on through next year with a fresh infusion of funds and through the divisive 2020 elections.  

Georgia's Tom Graves won’t run for reelection in 2020
Graves’ departure will open up a safe Republican seat

Georgia Rep. Tom Graves said he is retiring to spend more time with his family. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Georgia Rep. Tom Graves, a Republican serving his fifth full term, is not running for reelection in 2020, leaving behind a solid red district.

“As we all do, I’m entering a new season in life. An exciting season,” Graves said in a statement Thursday, in which he said the holidays have been a “time of reflection.”

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.