While Republican leaders spent the last three weeks preparing an agenda for their Jan. 5 takeover of the House, a separate group of about two dozen GOP lawmakers have been scrutinizing the day-to-day operation of the House and are planning potentially significant changes aimed at cutting costs and improving efficiency, including a longer work week.
The House Republican transition team, headed by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., held a conference call Tuesday to discuss the potential changes and review responses to a survey, sent to all members earlier this month, that asked lawmakers and staff to rate their satisfaction with everything from the House information technology office to whether the House "modular furniture program has been a success."
The transition team also held two days of listening sessions with current and incoming members and on Tuesday discussed "suggestions that particularly resonated," according to a GOP aide.
Walden signaled that the GOP is considering reducing the size and jurisdiction of the 23 House permanent and select committees and examining whether it makes more sense for lawmakers to have a longer work week in Washington, instead of spending fewer than three days at the Capitol each week as they do now. Walden's team will also examine whether the House spends too much time debating seemingly superfluous measures like those renaming post offices and congratulating sports teams.
Walden told reporters he is looking for ways to cut the House's operating costs, which could place programs created under current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on the chopping block, including her four-year-long effort to make the Capitol more environmentally friendly.
"When you're borrowing 43 cents or 41 cents on every dollar, we're going to have to find savings," Walden said earlier this month.
Walden did not specifically target Pelosi's "Green the Capitol" program for cuts, but he said its survival will depend on whether it makes fiscal sense. He hinted that the GOP would be satisfied enough with the pre-Pelosi policy of using blue recycling bins.
Pelosi has touted the program for decreasing the Capitol's "carbon footprint" and reducing paper waste while improving recycling. But her efforts have also been criticized as too costly. For instance, Republicans lambasted Pelosi for spending $90,000 on a controversial carbon offset program and $1 million on energy-efficient lighting for the Capitol dome, among other environmental initiatives.
The Daily Caller website in April reported that some janitors were taking the four-part recycling containers placed in each House office and dumping them into a common trash bin, prompting complaints from House staff.
"We're going to review all of the initiatives and services of the House to ensure they make sense for taxpayers," a GOP aide said Tuesday.
In an effort to make the House transparent to the public, the transition team is also examining whether to end late-night votes and require more online postings of transcripts and votes.