As Congress prepares to leave town and disillusioned voters get ready to trudge toward the midterm elections, party leaders on both sides of the aisle are making the usual promises that if elected, they will do things better. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has promised to re-empower committees, noting that a “sense of mutual respect is necessary for constructive dialogue.” Following President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a return to a bottom-up, subcommittee- and committee-driven process. But no matter who triumphs in November, our leaders will once again get a chance to establish the rules and tenor that will guide the next two years.
The list of necessary improvements to the legislative process is not new. Congress should spend more time in session; the minority party should be given the right to offer substantive amendments and in exchange resist the temptation to filibuster or otherwise slow down the process; the White House should meet regularly with leaders from both parties and committees should be empowered to drive the development of legislation.
But there is one more change that would help get Washington moving again: Lighten up on lobbyists.