Miller’s appointment to head the relatively low-profile House Administration Committee could actually get her more attention.
Miller will also allocate the budgets for all of the House committees with an eye on fiscal realities and sensitivity to the significance of “leading by example” in the broader campaign to cut spending. She could be telling chairmen to do more with even less should the sequester come to pass and committee budgets get slashed by as much as 11 percent.
“I come out of ... Southeast Michigan, where we have gone through the most painful economic transition in my lifetime as a state,” she said. “We were No. 1 in all the categories you don’t want to be No. 1 in ... so I don’t think there will be much sympathy for members of Congress to tighten their belts.”
Last week, she pointed to the chaos of her desk as proof that she’s hitting the ground running — it was scattered with PowerPoint printouts, memos and files she was reviewing to prepare for the new job. She also said she was setting up meetings with representatives from various legislative branch agencies.
But the hallmark of Miller’s leadership on the House Administration Committee will probably not be institutional overhauls as it was during Lungren’s tenure, but rather election law. It hasn’t had much of a spotlight in previous years in terms of committee action, and Lungren recently described election issues as “about 15 percent, at best, of what we do.”
“This committee previously, particularly after the 2000 election through the Help America Vote Act, was very influential [on election law], and, in fact, I remember some of the staff from the House Administration Committee came out to interview me in Michigan when I was secretary of state about various systems we had,” Miller countered. “There’s a natural flow of ebb and tide of various issues, but I certainly think there might be a lot more of those now, and I intend to push that.”
The first piece of legislation she intends to push, she said, would make it easier for servicemembers to vote in U.S. elections while deployed overseas and would also better ensure that their votes are counted.
That effort will likely supersede any close examination of some of the institutional changes her predecessor made during his early months as chairman, Miller suggested, such as ending the House composting program and replacing costly biodegradable dishware with controversial Styrofoam.
“I’m much more interested in making sure our military members are able to exercise their franchise from a voting standpoint than I am in Styrofoam cups,” she said.
But both functions of the committee are significant, and Miller said she expects them to carry equal weight among constituents back home, who remember her as their chief elections officer as well as a pillar of fiscal discipline.
In this way, one of the lowest-profile committees in Congress could boost Miller’s own profile.
“My constituents know that I’m very fiscally conservative, but they know I’m not one of those who just bashes government all the time either,” she said. “I think government has a role to play, I think it can serve well, and I think this committee assignment is really going to allow me to utilize my skill sets to really move ahead here.”
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.