Congressman Fred Keller urges Congress to return to regular order
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Fred Keller (R-PA) on Tuesday urged Congress to return to regular order where members conduct official business in person and in accordance with proper protocols, such as swearing-in witnesses and allowing both sides to call individuals to testify.
At a House Oversight and Reform Committee briefing Tuesday with Christi Grimm, Principal Deputy Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, Congressman Keller argued Democrats should not be using COVID-19 as an excuse to fail carry out the committee’s responsibilities and remove minority party rights.
Since mid-March, House Democrats have been using COVID-19 as pretext to do away with over 200 years of Congressional precedent by suspending the need for in-person voting, conducting committee activity virtually, and holding more informal briefings rather than committee hearings.
That action culminated in mid-May with the passage of H.Res. 965, legislation changing the operating rules of the House to allow for remote/proxy voting and virtual committee work.
During Tuesday’s Oversight Committee hearing, Congressman Keller stated the following in opposition to the continued change in how the House and its committees, particularly the House Oversight and Reform Committee, do business as a result of changes by House Democrats:
“I’m disappointed that we have not resumed normal committee activities in person and under the proper protocols. Congress has proven it can do its business in person, with proper social distancing and hygienic measures. Several House Committees have held in person hearings during this pandemic and COVID-19 should not excuse an abdication of our responsibilities and removing minority party rights, but that is just what the majority has done,” Congressman Keller said.
“These briefings have become nothing more than a way to skip normal order, cut Republican members out of the process and further politicize a pandemic that we should be all working to stop. I would just say that while I appreciate Ms. Grimm being with us virtually, she has not been sworn-in to give her testimony. I hope to have committee business done in person, following committee rules, with sworn-in witnesses going forward.”
Congressman Keller also recently joined a letter led by House Oversight and Reform Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-OH) expressing many of these same concerns.
"On May 20, 2020, Speaker Pelosi exercised authority given to her by H. Res. 965 to open the House of Representatives to proxy voting and remote committee hearings, markups and depositions. Yet, the Committee on Oversight and Reform continues to hold unsanctioned quasi-hearings. Rather than continue these fake hearings, we call on you to bring the Committee back to Washington, D.C. to conduct official business. For more than two hundred years, the House of Representatives has required Members to participate in proceedings in person—assuring on behalf of the American people that Members exercise their duties with full responsibility, transparency, and accountability," the letter reads in part.
"The Speaker’s actions and the resolution she promoted are regrettable departures from that proud history. Beyond the unprecedented nature of operating the House in this manner, it is unworkable from a day to day perspective. This view is based on practical experience over the past two months in this Committee. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the Committee has demonstrated that remote proceedings do nothing more than violate the spirit and letter of the Rules of the House and are an assault on the rights of Minority Members. The remote proceedings also compromise the ability of the House and this Committee to serve the American people as it should."
You can read the letter in full HERE.
When the House returns to session on Wednesday and Thursday, Congressman Keller will be in Washington to represent the people of Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District in person.