The Open Rule

In order to decipher the feelings of current lawmakers regarding the Open Rule, I surveyed five members of Congress with varying ideological views according to National Journal’s 2011 Vote Ratings. I also interviewed Speaker Boehner’s Chief of Legislative Operations and Floor Director to get a better feel for the Speaker’s attitudes on the topic. The questionnaire I composed included five questions ranging from whether the respondents believe the Open Rule does genuinely provide for more openness in government to whether or not they would like to see the rule used more in the future. My goal was to find common ground amongst these ideologically varied lawmakers, and propose a way in which to restore the American people’s confidence in Congress.

My findings showed that all five of the surveyed Congressmen believed that the Open Rule generally provides for more openness in government, and they would all also like to see it used more going forward. Since these members participate in the Legislative process on a daily basis, they were able to provide me with a unique perspective on the matter. For example, some of the members pointed out instances where the rule could be taken advantage of, which naturally would not provide for better government.

The only question asked that received significant disagreement was that of whether or not the Open Rule diminishes the power of committees. Congressmen Rohrabacher and Cohen felt that the Committee Chairman could lose power as far as the ability to control Legislation reaching the House floor, while the other three respondents felt it was not diminished. Other than this question, there was a tremendous amount of agreement amongst the Congressmen, and valuable information was derived from the survey. As was highlighted in the paper, it is no secret that it is difficult to get lawmakers to agree on much in the current bitterly partisan environment, so the consensus reached on this issue is significant.

James Fleischmann

The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga

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