Here’s why not: it would likely destroy the institutional power of Congress–whatever it has left–by stripping it of any serious oversight mechanism. The “A bubble” of administrative agencies that sit between the executive branch and Congress would essentially have free reign, and nobody could seriously question their rules or budget level requests.
Now, this doesn’t argue for keeping non-oversight committee – Appropriations, Finance, Rules, etc. – but it does agitate in favor of keeping some committee structure, or at least creating a new GAO-like organization with broad investigative powers. Still, it doesn’t eliminate option (c), that is committees with heavily rotating memberships. That’s where Andy’s second objection comes in:
I don’t think that routine swapouts are an especially good good idea. The same problem arises here as with term limits: the staff runs the committee (you think that’s a problem now? just wait until committee members play musical chairs every Congress).
This is a really outstanding argument, as standing committee staff members would know former members, who would then be able to lobby those still employed by the committee. And as none of the members would have as much experience in the committee’s issue area as the committee staff, meaning staff would have an even larger influence on votes than they do today. This could be solved if committees were banned from having a standing staff, and rely on their own team when switching. But this raises another problem, namely the potential for the creation of a cadre of Congressional issue experts who hop from office to office when committee membership switches. Their influence would be basically equivalent to that of a standing committee staff. You could solve this if you placed limitations on hiring/firing (no one who’s worked on the staff of a member of committee X may switch to the staff of a new member of committee X, each Rep/Senator has to have a staffer for each committee regardless of whether they’re on it, etc.) but that would basically create a situation where no one knows anything about anything. Which would be bad.
Taking Andy’s points into consideration, I think a more modest option (d) is in order. Keep more or less purely oversight committees–Foreign Relations, Intelligence, etc.–intact, as they function today. The potential for corruption is minimal compared to Finance or Appropriations, and the need for expertise great. Abolish the Rules committees outright, or at least the House one. They’re unnecessary bottlenecks in the process. For committees doing a mix of oversight and traditional legislating–Armed Services, HELP, etc.–adopt a rotating chairmanship with a much more egalitarian distribution of power within the committee and competitive elections for membership. Make the chairman more akin to the Chief Justice of SCOTUS than to the Speaker; give individual members the right to call votes and hearings, with a provision where the majority can override. For committees where you really don’t need as much expertise, which no oversight responsibilities, and with a high potential for corruption – Finance, Appropriations, etc. – either do a heavily rotating system with no staff and hiring restrictions as described above, or just defer bills on those topics to the party leadership, which can then decide whether or not to put it to a floor vote.
This is much more complicated, but would preserve the best features of the status quo while making some very real improvements, especially on taxation/budgeting/social insurance issues.