Washington, DC – The House Select Committee on Modernization and its chair and vice chair, Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and William Timmons (R-SC), made yet another major advancement in making the House work more effectively for the American people.
“At a time when Congress is starved for collaboration and civility, the Modernization Committee’s recommendations passed today offer some of the best hope for overcoming the current climate and restoring the legislative branch’s capacity to solve problems,” said John Richter, director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Congress Project. “These innovations are a down payment on delivering the kind of change Congress requires. The promise of a more productive environment in Congress can only be achieved if members embrace these recommendations and see them through.”
Critically, the committee recognizes the necessity for members of Congress to spend more time building relationships with one another, which are an essential predicate to effective legislating. Programs like BPC’s established, and well-regarded American Congressional Exchange (ACE) are already in place and ready for even greater member participation.
ACE is a pioneering effort to rebuild relationships and bipartisanship in Congress by having members from opposite parties visit each other’s districts. A shared experience based on close personal interaction can be what brings members of Congress together to form bonds of trust and act on behalf of the American people.
Additionally, BPC has long urged that Congress improve its access to science and technology advice. The committee’s recommendations address the longstanding necessity to enhance the resources that underlie Congress’s legislative capacity. Congress needs expertise to craft solutions that can deliver real improvements in Americans’ lives. Making permanent already successful science and technology support within the Government Accountability Office is a speedy strategy for bringing the added expertise and rigorous analysis that members want.
BPC has also identified and championed multiple opportunities for Congress to improve its abilities to understand and use data. Echoing that effort, the committee builds on Congress’s successful efforts to bring more evidence and data into policymaking by calling for a bipartisan, bicameral Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking to encourage and facilitate better use of data in the legislative process. When Congress enacted the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, it mostly had the executive branch in mind. With that effort well under way, it’s time for Congress to think about its own capabilities to improve government performance.
The committee’s call for a bicameral, bipartisan task force to examine rules changes is a vital jumpstart for getting Congress out of the inertia of the status quo. More than seven years ago, BPC’s Commission on Political Reform recognized that Congress’s rules and procedures were being used more for party advantage rather than to shape the kind of deliberation that leads to lasting and effective legislation. In the time since, BPC’s analysis shows the legislative process has continued to deteriorate.
“Once again, the Modernization Committee has set the example for how our representatives can overcome differences, build consensus, and reach agreement on big challenges. Every lawmaker, especially every committee chairman and ranking member, should be watching what is happening in this committee,” said Michael Thorning, BPC associate director of governance. “The American people should take heart in knowing that despite current cynicism, there is hope for a Congress that works.”
John Richter and Michael Thorning are available for comment.