Pelosi Remarks at Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress Hearing
March 13, 2019
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered testimony at the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress hearing. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and may I thank you and Mr. Graves for the opportunity to be here today. Thank you.
And let me call to everyone to join our colleague, Mr. Pascrell, in calling attention to his op-ed, which I recommend to everyone to read because it, in some length and depth, goes into how we should go forward. Thank you for your service on this Committee and your leadership in this Congress.
I do believe that as an institution that’s been around for over 200 years or more than – well over 200 years, that we should always be subjecting how we function to some scrutiny and some shedding light on how we can do some things in a better way.
I think, in doing so, we have to remember that we are the People’s House, and that we want the people to know what happens here. And that is why my approach to all of this in my opening day comments was to say that we want a Congress that is more transparent, more open in terms of people having notice of what is happening here, so that they can weigh in on the decisions of the House of Representatives.
I consider the sessions of Congress to be a national town hall meeting. The People’s House: transparent, again, striving for bipartisanship. We have a responsibility to find our common ground where we can, so to strive for that bipartisanship wherever possible, and to do so in a way that is unifying for America.
That is a responsibility we have – to come here certainly to share our different views because our job title and our job description are one and the same: Representative. But also, nonetheless to say, as we prioritize our actions, where is it that we have the most common ground to unify?
Our Founders, who were generous in their Constitution, in making the People’s House – Congress of the United States – the first branch of government, right after the beautiful preamble of our purpose: Article 1, the legislative branch. And that within that, the House of Representatives, the People’s House.
It’s pretty exciting, I say as Speaker of the House and one who has served as Leader, Whip and all the rest. Ever honored by any title or job responsibility our colleagues give us, nothing is more important than the job our constituents give to us: to speak for them, to represent them in the Congress of the United States, the People’s House.
So, I want to wish you well in your work. And I’ll just say that to be representative, one of the – I’m going to submit my statement for the record – I do talk about it being family-friendly, I talk about we did before, our Women’s Economic Agenda when we had the Majority before.
Continuing that with our Diversity Initiative, which we had then, which now we are making more official – to establishing a Diversity and Inclusion Office, to expand paid internships so that kids who cannot afford to come because it’s not a paid internship will be able to come. And that broadens the universe of people who can come.
And again, a call for leadership development initiatives. Many state legislatures have such an initiative, we should have one here too, and I think that is a charge that your committee has. So, I look forward to how you hear from Members how they would like to see that leadership development take place.
Again, we’re reviewing the services of the House Family Room and conferring with women Members to assess services in the Women’s Lounge.
More responsive to our constituents, working with that Committee on House Administration to seek – to task House officers to develop a district office support system because that is our job. Representative, job description. Representative, job title. And included in that is we meet the needs of our constituents.
This is – the work of the Committee I respect. I think it will be vital in coordinating, supporting some of these initiatives that you are discussing.
And together – I think working together and I emphasize this, and some people have talked about changing MTR, this or that. I am a big respecter of the rights of the Minority in the Congress of the United States, and I believe as Speaker of the whole House that the initiatives that you put forth are those for the whole House, whether it’s development of leadership, inclusion of women, minorities, etcetera, people of color, gender identity and the rest, that our People’s House looks like the American people when people see our presentations on TV.
And again, social media gives you so much opportunity. You, who have this responsibility now, because communication with the American people in real time is a real possibility.
I just close by saying, if you haven’t done so, and I’m sure most of you have, but for those in the room who may not have, if you go to the Library of Congress and go to the Jefferson Room and look up some of our early documents, our sacred documents of our Founders – say, the Declaration of Independence or other, even some of the provenance, House of Burgesses and the rest of that – but look at the Declaration of Independence, you can see right there how it was and how it was changed by suggestions and the rest and I think that would be an important model for how we show the public: this is how the law is now, this is what this law that is being proposed would change that.
But they could just call it up themselves – they call it up themselves. It is a remarkable, remarkable technology that is available there and there is no reason why every person in America can’t know what the law is, how this would change it, do you agree, do you disagree, what other changes would you make? Because, again, we are their representatives and we want to know their thinking so that we can speak for them in the Congress.
So, I’m excited about this, obviously, we established it. I have faith in what you do. I believe that the solutions you come up with have to have strong bipartisanship and that is, again, transparency, bipartisanship, E Pluribus Unum: from many, one. They could never imagine how many we would be. They could never imagine how different we might be from each other. But they knew that we had to remember that we are one, one nation under God, indivisible. So, that should be a responsibility we carry as we debate our priorities in the Congress of the United States.
So, I thank you for executing your patriotic duty to weigh in on the first article of the Constitution, Article I, the legislative branch, in our case, the People’s House.
With that, I thank you Mr. Chairman, for your leadership, Mr. Graves, as Vice Chair, for yours and each and every one of you for your service in the Congress and on the important Select Committee.