House Democrats to consider publishing internal caucus rules ‘in short order’

Progressive groups have called out secrecy surrounding how Democrats govern themselves

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries and Vice Chairwoman Katherine M. Clark conduct a news conference after a caucus meeting in the Capitol in January. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats will consider making public their internal party rules after pressure from outside groups who say such a move would exemplify the party’s “commitment to open government.” 

“We believe in transparency and accountability,” Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries wrote Thursday in a letter obtained by Roll Call, “and in that spirit, this issue will be presented to the Caucus for consideration in short order.” 

Jeffries’ office did not respond to follow-up questions about when the caucus would discuss the matter and what, if any, action it would take. Caucus meetings, held weekly, are not open to the public or the media.

Democrats have attempted to make transparency measures a cornerstone of their leadership in the House, but so far have stopped short of publicly revealing the internal guidelines for party members.

The rules typically cover procedural matters, such membership and meeting schedules. But they can also determine weightier issues, including how power is distributed and how the party responds to scandals. Recently, the caucus’s rules were central to an intraparty dispute over term limits for elected leaders and committee chairs, a proxy for a discussion about whether the party has done a good job promoting its younger members. 

The issue came to a head Thursday, after a coalition of progressive and civil rights groups made their second appeal to Jeffries and Democratic leaders. 

A letter signed by 16 of those group said that publishing caucus rules is “necessary for government accountability.” It pointed out that House Republicans have published their rules for the past several Congresses. 

“Public access empowers understanding of legislative branch activities, provides essential detail on how you govern, and exemplifies your commitment to open government,” the letter read. Signatories included the Center for Responsive Politics, the R Street Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union. 

A similar letter sent last week and signed by 11 groups did not receive a response, said Daniel Schuman, policy director for advocacy group Demand Progress, which has spearheaded the effort. 

Spokespersons for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said both backed Jeffries’ proposal to discuss the issue with the full caucus.

Flashback: Pelosi, Lewis and House Democrats unveil legislative agenda for 116th

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.