Getting Back to Legislating: Reflections of a Congressional Working Group

Nov. 27, 2012

The United States Congress in 2012 has been the least productive and most gridlocked in recent memory. That reality is reflected in the lowest job approval ratings the public has given Congress since 1974 —the year President Richard Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment and removal over the Watergate scandal.

The public’s low regard for Congress’ performance is shared by Washington insiders including the current and former Members, senior staff, congressional scholars, and private citizens who participated in six roundtable discussions on the changing culture of Congress, cosponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center and Woodrow Wilson Center. The sessions ranged over such topics as the committee system, budgeting, leadership influences, the regular order and conference committees.

The central thread running through all the discussions is that the culture of Congress has changed dramatically over the last several decades from a culture of legislating to a culture of campaigning; and the nature of that change has made it more difficult for the institution to perform its central lawmaking functions. Specifically, Congress has failed in recent times to adopt congressional budgets, enact regular appropriations bills, or even complete routine reauthorizations on time.

Read the press release here.

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