Since its inception in January 2019, the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress has been working to answer a very important question: How can Congress work better for the American people? Learn more about the committee’s work during the 116th Congress

Introduction from Chair Derek Kilmer and Vice Chair Tom Graves

Every so often, Congress establishes bipartisan select committees to look inward, reflect, and propose reforms that allow its Members and operations to work better for the American people.

At the beginning of the 116th Congress, one of the first votes Congress took was to establish the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. As the leaders of this truly bipartisan committee—six Republicans and six Democrats—we take this task seriously. We are committed to finding a path forward on some of the tough issues facing the legislative branch, and delivering durable solutions for the future.

The Committee was tasked with researching and offering solutions to strengthen the legislative branch. This includes a wide range of issues, from improving technology and increasing transparency, to reclaiming Congress’ Article One powers, and exploring a more productive congressional calendar. The scope is massive. The mission is vital to the future of our government and our nation.

We knew that if we were going to enact real change, a new approach would be needed. We started by emphasizing bipartisanship at every level of our committee—we worked together not as Republicans or Democrats, but as colleagues. We shared our resources and staff, and continually sought out compromises that an overwhelming majority of our committee members could support. We engaged in tough discussions and didn’t allow our differences to block a path forward.

The Committee was originally designed to last only a year, but with the support of our colleagues and leadership on both sides of the aisle, we received an extension through the 116th Congress to finish our work. We worked together, side by side, even amidst political divisions (including an impeachment process).  Civility and bipartisanship were more important than ever, and we worked hard to chart a path forward.

A few months into 2020, as the entire world faced a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, we knew we had to adapt. Our Members identified ways to communicate our work and deliver solutions for those we serve. And as the country grappled with a racial injustice crisis, the Committee considered how to improve diversity in Congress. We hosted virtual discussions to understand some of the challenges facing our staff and our communities and issued recommendations specific to the challenges we faced.

The result over the last 20 months was a series of reforms targeted at improving transparency in Congress, streamlining constituent engagement, cultivating staff diversity and retention, and revitalizing our Article One responsibilities bestowed in the Constitution. We also passed reforms to boost civility and bipartisanship throughout Congress, to make the Capitol more accessible to Americans with disabilities, and to improve technology capabilities in the House. Several of these reforms have already been implemented throughout the House, making us the first select committee in recent history to see our recommendations turned into action. This report provides an overview of our proposals, as well as areas that warrant additional attention by future select committees. We also provide background on the issues we found plaguing Congress and how our recommendations ultimately address them.

Our guiding principle was to make Congress work better for the American people. Problem solving isn’t partisan. Over the past two years, we worked across the aisle, with Members from all parts of the country, and with a variety of backgrounds and beliefs. At times, it felt like we were going against the grain by issuing recommendations on some tough topics. But that’s why this Committee’s work mattered so much—even in times of division, we were committed to finding a path forward. The result is a roadmap that current and future Congresses can use to fix both major and minor issues—hopefully with continued enthusiasm for generations to come.

Committee Members

Chair
Derek Kilmer
Washington - 06
Vice Chair
Tom Graves
Georgia - 14
Susan Brooks
Indiana - 05
Emanuel Cleaver
Missouri - 05
Rodney Davis
Illinois - 13
Suzan DelBene
Washington - 01
Zoe Lofgren
California - 19
Dan Newhouse
Washington - 04
Mark Pocan
Wisconsin - 02
Mary Gay Scanlon
Pennsylvania - 05
William Timmons
South Carolina - 04
Rob Woodall
Georgia - 07

Legislative Action

Although the Modernization Committee did not have any legislative authority, per its creation in H.Res.6, Members worked with other committees to introduce and pass legislation throughout its tenure. This successful approach made the Modernization Committee the first select committee in recent history to effectively turn suggested reforms into legislative action.[1] This chapter outlines recommendations that were successfully implemented in the House during the Committee’s tenure. The Committee’s remaining recommendations have not yet been considered on the floor, largely due to the House’s ongoing remote work schedule.

H.Res.756, The “MODCOM Resolution”

On March 10, 2020, the House overwhelmingly passed, with bipartisan support, H.Res.756, “Moving Our Democracy and Congressional Operations Towards Modernization Resolution” (MODCOM Resolution). This resolution included 24 of the Committee’s passed recommendations. All 12 Committee Members co-sponsored this legislative text, led by Chair Derek Kilmer and Vice Chair Tom Graves. The legislation was passed under the jurisdiction of the Committee on House Administration. Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren and Ranking Member Rodney Davis were also Members of the Modernization Committee—and played a pivotal role in seeing these bills pass the House. 

The tone that has been set at the Modernization Committee has been a refreshing reminder that there is still a way to work in a truly bipartisan manner… Six Members of Congress from each party came together to work towards a common goal: to make this institution better.  Americans deserve an efficient and effective legislature. A modernized Congress will increase our ability to respond to the needs of communities, save taxpayer dollars, erase layers of bureaucracy, further professionalize the institution, and revitalize a transparent, understandable and efficient legislative process.
Rep. Rodney Davis, March 10, 2020

The resolution included recommendations to streamline and reorganize House Human Resources (Title I), improve orientation and education opportunities for Members (Title II), modernize House technology (Title III), improve accessibility (Title IV), and improve accessibility and transparency by making congressional documents more accessible (Title V). As Chair Derek Kilmer said on the House floor, prior to the vote: 

These recommendations are the product of bipartisan collaboration and a commitment to making Congress work better for the American people. These recommendations, though wide-ranging, share a common goal of making Congress more responsive, transparent and accessible for every American. Today marks the first time in recent history that a committee like ours has turned recommendations into legislative text, and it’s thanks to the collaboration and partnership of Democratic and Republican members. I am grateful for their time and commitment to improving the People’s House and I’m hopeful there will be more to come.
Chair Derek Kilmer, March 10, 2020

Recommendations Included in H.Res.756

Title I of H.Res.756 included four of the Modernization Committees’ five recommendations to streamline and reorganize House Human Resources and attract and retain congressional staff. Chapter 2 outlines the background and need for these reforms, as well as details of their implementation. Title I, Section 101 establishes a new, centralized human resources hub for Members and their Staff. This hub is tasked with the Committee’s other recommendations to improve staff retention and resources, including collecting and distributing information on staff resources and benefits, best practices for retention, and guidance on telework policies. This new, centralized HR hub will also improve diversity and recruitment by establishing a resume portal for jobs and applicants, and proactively engaging in outreach to under-represented colleges and universities. Lastly, this center will perform biennial staff surveys to collect important information on staff pay, benefits, and diversity.

Title I, Section 102 requires the submission of diversity and inclusion reports, mandated in H.Res.6, the House resolution that also established the Modernization Committee. These reports can be found in the Appendix. Section 103 initiates a report from the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) on the feasibility of updating the staff payroll system to bimonthly payments. Likewise, Section 104 calls on the CAO to examine the viability of adjusting the staff cap in individual Member offices. More on the need for these studies can be found in Chapter 3 of this report. Lastly, Title I initiates a new, uniform employee orientation, so that all staff in both Washington D.C. and the district will receive the same orientation information upon arrival in the House. Detailed background on the need for an improved Member and staff orientation can be found in Chapters 3 and 4 of this report.

Section II of H.Res.756 turns to improving Member orientation. Details on the background of these reforms can be found in Chapter 4. Section 201 calls on the CAO to establish a plan for Members to employ a transition staff member during the period between a new election and the start of the Congress. This transition period is an essential period in which Members are setting up their offices, hiring new staff, and learning the rules of the House—and it’s important they have the support they need to start off on the right foot. Section 202 calls on the Committee on House Administration to improve the overall orientation experience for new Members by making it more accessible and improving the program material. New Member orientation provides the foundation to working in Congress, and all Members should be able to take part no matter when they were elected. Likewise, bipartisanship and decorum should be emphasized from the get-go. Section 203 and 204 develop new education opportunities for Members and staff—a Congressional Leadership Academy and updated cybersecurity training, respectively.

Title III contains nine Sections to modernize and revitalize House technology to better serve the American people and make it easier for Members to connect with their constituents. Section 301 calls for a report on how to establish and improve a new House Information Resources (HIR) that will bring technology-use by Members into the 21st Century. This Title also calls for the HIR to allow Members to beta-test new technologies (Section 304), and establish a single point of contact within HIR for individual Member offices (Section 305), which will not only make it easier for Members and staff to get the help they need, but establishes a way to provide HIR with direct, helpful feedback for improvement (Section 306). Title III also contains sections to improve constituency engagement technologies, such as video calls (Section302); streamline the approval process for outside vendors (Section 303); and enable the CAO to leverage the bulk purchasing power of the House (Section 307). Lastly, this Title initiates two reforms to assist Members with constituent communication—directing the Congressional Research Service (CRS) to provide rapid-response short fact sheets on pressing and timely topics (Section 308); and establishing a nonpartisan constituent engagement page on HouseNet so Members and staff can share best practices on vendors and constituent engagement experiences (Section 209). Chapter 6 discusses the need for these recommendations in detail. In addition to these reforms, other technology changes were implemented in response to the COVID-19 remote operating status. These are discussed below, as well as in Chapter 9 of this report.

Title IV makes much-needed improvements to House accessibility by mandating three new requirements to ensure all Americans can be involved in the legislative process. Section 401 requires the CAO to submit a report on website accessibility for all House offices and committees, and to provide recommendations on how Congress will improve any shortcomings. Section 402 requires the CAO to submit a plan to standardize closed captioning for all videos created by House offices—including committee hearings, floor proceedings, and other events. Lastly, Section 403 establishes a comprehensive review of accessibility throughout the Capital Buildings and Grounds.  More information on the details of these recommendations, and the background of Accessibility Services in the House can be found in Chapter 5 of this report.

The final Title (V) of H.Res.756 codifies a top priority of the Modernization Committee—transparency and access to congressional documents and publication. Section 501 and 502 adopts two sought after projects to standardize legislative texts and make the amendment process easier. First, 501 standardizes legislative text to be submitted in Extensible Markup Language, or XML, which allows for the legislative comparison project outlined in Section 502 to move forward. Section 503 establishes a much-needed database of information on the deadlines and expirations for program authorizations—a task which not only will aid in transparency, but congressional capacity as well. Lastly, section 504 establishes a database of votes taken in committee so the American public can know how their Representative voted at all stages of the legislative process. More information on the recommendations included in Title V can be found in Chapter 1 and 7.        

Full text of H.Res.756 can be found in the Appendix.

Recommendations from These Packages Not Included in H.Res.756

While a majority of the Modernization Committee recommendations in the first two packages were included in H.Res.756, three were not explicitly included after consulting the Office of Legislative Counsel and the Committee on House Administration. A recommendation modernizing the lobbying disclosure system (included in H. Rept. 116-406 “Recommendations to Improve Transparency in the U.S. House of Representatives”) would have required a change to the U.S. Code, and therefore a Senate vote on legislation that included this recommendation. Since the Modernization Committee drafted legislation with the scope narrowed to mainly House matters, this recommendation was held for possible additional legislation in the future that would require a Senate vote.

Additionally, H.Res.756 did not include a recommendation rethinking and reinstating an Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) (included in H. Rept. 116-407 “Recommendations to Streamline House Human Resources, Overhaul the Onboarding Process, Improve Member Continuing Education Opportunities, Modernize House Technology, and Improve Accessibility”). The Committee recognized outside studies were underway on this subject. The Committee also recognized more work to improve House technology, and possibly the OTA, was a priority and therefore this recommendation was not included to provide space for additional, thoughtful work.

Finally, a recommendation to regularly survey staff (included in H. Rept. 116-407 “Recommendations to Streamline House Human Resources, Overhaul the Onboarding Process, Improve Member Continuing Education Opportunities, Modernize House Technology, and Improve Accessibility”) was combined with other sections of H.Res.756.

Leg Branch Appropriations

Before passage of H.Res.756, Chair Kilmer and Vice Chair Graves began working to secure funding to implement the Modernization Committee’s recommendations. The recommendations in this section were implemented through the 2020 House Appropriations Legislative Branch bill, which provides funding for the federal legislative branch. On March 4, 2020, Chair Kilmer and Vice Chair Graves testified before the Legislative Branch Subcommittee on the importance of funding the Modernization Committee’s reforms in order to make the House more effective, efficient, and transparent. [2]

Our goal is simple, but critical: make Congress work better for the American people…. As we continue our work throughout the remainder of this year, no idea is too big or too small, and we encourage you to continue sharing your ideas for reform with us. Together we’re giving the House a roadmap for a brighter future.
Vice Chair Tom Graves, March 4, 2020

Making Congress work better for the American people is a worthwhile investment. The Select Committee sees value in modernizing this institution so that we’re not relying on outdated processes and technologies to address 21st century problems.
ChairDerek Kilmer, March 4, 2020

The Legislative Branch Subcommittee bill, released on July 6, 2020 and passed by the full committee on July 10, provides funding for five recommendations made by the Modernization Committee for fiscal year 2021—the transition to bulk purchasing, transition staff members, a new HR center and document standardization program, and improved House Accessibility. [3] Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Tim Ryan (OH-13), full Committee Chair Nita Lowey (NY-17), and full Committee Ranking Member Kay Granger (TX-12) praised the Modernization Committee for these investments to modernize the House:

“I’m proud to release this bill, which serves as a down payment on the modernization of the House of Representatives and ensures we can continue to serve our constituents efficiently and effectively.”
Tim Ryan, July 6, 2020

“This bill makes key investments in the Legislative Branch – from funding for House modernization initiatives to increased resources for diversity and inclusion efforts – to better reflect and meet the needs of the diverse communities we serve.”
Nita M. Lowey, July 6, 2020

 “This bill recognizes the important, bipartisan work of the House Select Committee on Modernization and takes steps to make Congress more effective, efficient, and transparent on behalf of the American people.”
Kay Granger, July 10, 2020

 The leg branch appropriations bill establishes a $2 million fund for House modernization and contains text on the following five recommendations made by the Modernization Committee and passed by the House in H.Res.756.

1. Funding for the CAO to engage in bulk purchasing and provide baseline technology for offices.

Committee recommendation: The CAO should leverage the bulk purchasing power of the House and provide a standard suite of quality, up-to-date devices and software, such as desktop and laptop computers, tablets, printers, mobile phones and desk phones at no cost to the Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA).

Committee recommendation: Encourage House-wide bulk purchasing of goods and services to cut back on waste and inefficiency

Leg Branch Bill [4]: The Select Committee recommended that the CAO leverage the bulk purchasing power of the House of Representatives. The CAO should provide a standard suite of quality, up-to-date devices and software, such as desktop and laptop computers, tablets, printers, mobile phones and desk phones at no cost to the MRA. The Committee believes that fragmented and duplicative contracts cause inefficiencies and unnecessary costs for Member, Committee, and leadership offices. The Committee recommends that the CAO negotiate House-wide contracts or purchasing services for Member, Committee, and Leadership offices with the goal of saving taxpayer dollars by purchasing centrally rather than independently.

Leg Branch Bill: The CAO is also encouraged to develop and pilot baseline tech packages for new Member offices in order to take advantage of bulk purchasing rates and streamline the process of equipping Member offices with necessary technologies. The CAO, in consultation with the Committee on House Administration, should determine what constitutes a good, baseline technology package for Member offices. The CAO may pilot a baseline tech package with freshman offices, and then expand the pilot to other offices accordingly.

 
2. $13 million to the CAO to allow the hiring of transition staff for new Members.

Committee recommendation: Through the Office of the Clerk, newly elected Members should have the option to hire and pay one transition staff member for the duration of the time between when they are elected and are sworn in.

3. Support of the new, centralized HR Hub.

Committee recommendation: Create a one-stop shop Human Resources HUB dedicated to Member, committee, and leadership (MCL) staff. Led by an HR Deputy Director and comprised of existing offices and staff of the House, the office will be responsible for assisting MCL offices to improve the recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce, develop best practices that can be utilized by offices, and provide recommendations for competitive compensation and benefits to House staff.

Leg Branch Bill: The Committee commends the recommendations produced by the Select Committee, particularly those regarding centralized Human Resources. A centralized human resources program would provide standardized hiring, promoting, and managing guidelines and improve in the retention and recruitment of a diverse workforce. The Committee requests a report within 120 days of enactment from the CAO on the feasibility of a centralized Human Resources system.

4. Adoption of a standardized document format for all legislative texts.

Committee recommendation: Adopting one standardized format for drafting, viewing, and publishing legislation to improve transparency and efficiency throughout the lawmaking process.

Leg Branch Bill: The Committee is supportive of the Select Committee’s recommendations to adopt standardized formats for legislative documents and expedite the legislation comparison project.

5. Funding to begin the transition to website accessibly for all Americans.

Committee recommendation: Scan and analyze all House websites and apps to determine the accessibility level of each congressional website, and provide resources and assistance to ensure all systems are compatible with common programs used by major disability groups.

Leg Branch Bill: According to the Bureau of the Census, there are 40.7 million citizens who are non-institutionalized individuals with a disability, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Individuals with disabilities should have full digital access to government digital properties, especially those made available by Member offices, including websites, applications, and electronic document retrieval programs. The Select Committee has highlighted improving access to Congressional websites for individuals with disabilities as a top priority. The Committee directs the CAO to provide a report, no later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, on the current state of web accessibility of Member websites and provide a plan that defines the scope, timeline, and cost estimates for all Member of Congress websites to be accessible for the disabled. This report shall be submitted to the Committee and the Committee on House Administration.

Implemented Recommendations for Franked Mail

Modernization Committee Members and staff worked closely with the House Franking Commission and the Committee on House Administration to create seven reforms geared toward increasing the quality of constituent communication. These recommendations were passed by the Committee on December 19, 2019, implemented by the Franking Commission, and passed by the House on July 30, 2020 in H.R.7512, the “COMMS Act”.[5]

These recommendations address the growing use of digital communication by the House, changing communication between constituents and the Member, and consolidates new rules and regulations for official digital communications in one, convenient place. The COMMS Act also makes some administrative changes, such as renaming the Franking Commission to the House Communications Standards Communication, and makes it easier for Members to track their sponsored mail and receive approval for official communications. The details of these recommendations and the need for their implementation are detailed in Chapter 8.

Recommendations Implemented in Response to COVID-19 

Lastly, Modernization Committee recommendations related to electronic submission were implemented out of necessity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and provide support for Congress’ remote operating status. While some were implemented on a temporary, emergency status, the Modernization Committee passed an additional set of recommendations encouraging many changes be made permanent. These are also detailed below, as well as Chapter 9. The Committee on House Administration, led by Modernization Committee Members Chair Zoe Lofgren and Ranking Member Rodney Davis, was instrumental in the implementation of these recommendations.

In H.Rept. 116-407 “Recommendations to Streamline House Human Resources, Overhaul the Onboarding Process, Improve Member Continuing Education Opportunities, Modernize House Technology, and Improve Accessibility”, the Modernization Committee recommended updating House procedure to allow Members to electronically add or remove their name as a cosponsor. While this was originally recommended out of convenience for Members and their staff, the remote work period made this a necessity for not only cosponsors, but for official letters to administrative officials, document requests, and constituent communications.

On April 7, 2020 the House Office of the Clerk, with the Committee on House Administration and the Speaker of the House, began accepting electronic submission of committee reports and legislative documents that require a Members’ signature.[6] The Modernization Committee recommended making this change permanent and expanding the types of documents and signatures permissible for electronic signature in their July 31, 2020 package of continuity recommendations. See Chapter 9 for more detail on these reforms.

Committee Overview

Congress is no stranger to reform. Each legislative session Members work to pass new laws, reform old practices, and amend existing laws. But while the world around us changes rapidly, as an institution, Congress has been slow to keep up.

“Every few decades Congress takes a look inward and decides it needs to fix itself. In most of these instances Congress forms a select committee and charges them with figuring out what the problems are and recommending solutions. The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress is the latest incarnation of that. The last one was in 1992.

I have been incredibly impressed and encouraged by the collaboration of the Members of the Select Committee, and I believe that we are proving that it is possible for Members on both sides of the aisle to sit down together, engage in tough discussions, and ultimately find bipartisan solutions to the challenges that we face.”
Derek Kilmer, November 21, 2019 before the Committee on House Administration[7]

The 116th Congress is not the first to initiate a select committee tasked with improving legislative branch operations and identifying opportunities for reform. Unlike the 20 permanent, standing committees of Congress, temporary select committees are established with a specific investigative task. Select committees can include Members from both the House and Senate, making them a “joint” select committee. While some select committees, like the House Select Committee on Intelligence or the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, are tasked with external investigations, some committees, like the 116th Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (“Modernization Committee”), are asked to look internally, research the areas of Congress that are ripe for reform, and propose ways to improve the institution.

Over the past century, there have been three joint select committees, four House select committees (including the Modernization Committee), and two commissions focused on reforming Congress. This section will review past congressional reform efforts by these committees, beginning with the 1946 Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, and concluding with the Modernization Committee established in January 2019. After providing a brief overview of past efforts, this section will then detail the processes of the Committee including its formation, jurisdiction, and legislative output.

Past Congressional Reform Efforts

Figure A: Timeline of congressional reform select committees of congress. Larger circles indicate the committees’ jurisdiction was congress-wide reforms, versus a sector of congressional activity.

figure A

Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, 79th Congress

As Congress evolved, its legislative activity mirrored the expansion of the country. By 1913, there were 61 standing committees in the House, including 11 centered solely on federal expenditures. Internal and external criticisms about the inefficiencies of committee jurisdiction eventually led House and Senate leadership to establish the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress.[8]

This Committee was comprised of 12 Members, six from each chamber, divided equally by party, and was tasked to “make a full and complete study of the organization and operation of Congress,” and to propose recommendations to strengthen and simplify Congress. The Committee was authorized for the two years of the 79th Congress (1945-1946). Over these two years, the Committee held 39 hearings, received testimony from 102 witnesses, and drafted a final report on March 4, 1946 with 37 recommendations.[9]

The House and Senate committee structure was the focus of the Joint Committee’s report. The Committee proposed reducing the number of standing committees to 18, and the majority of the standing committee jurisdictions proposed in the 1946 legislation are still intact today. The report also recommended that every standing committee have its own oversight authority to investigate the executive branch departments that fall under its jurisdiction, another practice still in place today.

The Joint Committee successfully passed into law the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, which in addition to committee reforms, included proposals to raise member pay and regulate lobbyists. It was signed into law by President Truman on August 2, 1946.[10] Other recommendations regarding congressional staff, such as hiring non-partisan professional staff for each committee, and granting administrative assistants to each individual member for constituent services, were not passed. However, while these staffing proposals were not ultimately passed into law, they were later adopted and passed by future select committees.

Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, 89th – 91st Congress

The next substantial reforms targeting Congress passed in the 91st Congress and were the byproduct of five years of work spread over three Congresses. The second Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress was made up of six Senators and six Representatives, equally divided by party, and met from March 1965 through September 1965. Like the joint committee before it, the focus was the organization of Congress and its committees. In addition, as the original proposals weaved their way through the legislative hurdles of Congress, tensions between the executive branch and the legislative branch increased. Thus, the final reforms also included proposals intended to move Congress to reclaim its Article One powers, particularly its power of the purse.

The 1965 Select Committee proposed around 120 changes to congressional operations in a July 1966 report. Legislation was introduced alongside the report but saw no action until the Senate reintroduced the Committee’s legislation in 1967. Although the proposals were overwhelmingly supported in the Senate, they gained no traction in the House until the House Rules Committee’s Special Subcommittee on Legislative Reorganization drafted a bill based on the Joint Committee’s proposals. This legislation ultimately passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Nixon in 1970.

The approved proposals of the 1965 committee largely focused on congressional committees, in an attempt to temper the power of committee chairs and give the minority party more involvement in committee activity. Specifically, it was recommended that each committee adopt written rules, establish consistent meeting days, publish committee hearing dates in advance, allow the minority to bring forward their own witnesses, and allow Members to call a hearing without the approval of the committee chair. Again, many of these reforms are still in place today—public and televised hearings, recorded votes in committee markup, and minority inclusion in committee activity—and can all be traced back to the 1965 reforms.

Like the 1946 Joint Committee, the 1966 report also included staffing suggestions, such as establishing bipartisan committee clerks, granting the minority a committee staff, and providing funding for administrative assistants. To address increased executive power, the Committee recommended increased oversight of the executive branch via the appropriations process. The Committee also recommended increasing the capacity of nonpartisan research organizations, most notably the Congressional Research Service.

House Select Committee on Committees, 93rd Congress

Committee structure and jurisdiction were again the focus of the 1973 House Select Committee on Committees (commonly referred to as the Bolling Committee, named for then-Rep. Richard Bolling, D-MO, who introduced the committee’s final legislation). The Committee makeup was bipartisan, with five Republican and five Democratic Members. Their hearings, from May through October 1973, relied solely on committee staff and congressional leadership as witnesses.

Committee jurisdiction was the focus of the House Select Committee on Committees, but the Committee also recommended that “major” committees develop oversight subcommittees, improve the communication between committees and related executive branch agencies, and eliminate proxy voting. But when the select committee released its initial draft in December 1973, its work was met with extensive criticism. The report suggested abolishing several committees and reducing the scope of jurisdiction of others. Members, territorial of their committees and their jurisdiction, were opposed to the initial suggestions.

Ultimately, after four days of contentious House Rules Committee hearings, six days of House floor debate, and numerous proposed amendments, the House adopted a package as amended by Rep. Julia Butler Hansen, D-WA, (also referred to as the “Hansen Alternative”). The report appeased critics by keeping all committees intact and suggesting only minor changes to committee jurisdiction. In addition, the approved legislation maintained proxy voting and increased committee staff for the minority party, specifically for purposes of executive oversight. These reforms also established the requirement that any committee-issued subpoenas be authorized by the majority of committee Members.

House Commission on Information and Facilities, 94th Congress

The next congressional session created a House Commission on Information and Facilities (commonly referred to as the “Brooks Commission”, named after chair Rep. Jack Brooks, D-TX), and was tasked with practical matters of House operations—technology, constituency communications, and the physical capacity of congressional buildings. As a commission, alongside the GAO, CRS, and House Information Systems, it was able to implement changes without passing legislation.

The Commission, made up of five Democratic and four Republican Members, focused its recommendations and pilot programs on ways to make the House more efficient and modern, particularly given the increasing demands of constituency size and technological developments in communication. Throughout the Commission’s tenure (1975-1976), it produced six “information inventories, conducted a comprehensive study of congressional support agencies, and undertook numerous pilot projects.”[11] Using this research, the Commission’s final report, released in January 1977, identified two main areas for reform: information and facilities.

First, in the information sector, the Commission recommended increased coordination among information agencies like GAO, CRS, and CBO. It also encouraged Members to use these legislative services more frequently, even installing a shared computer center for Members and committees to increase access to these information services. Second, as for facilities, the Commission concluded that the House lacked adequate space for its growing needs. Its suggestions were specific: The Document Room was moved from Capitol to the Longworth Building, the Ford Building was adapted as a House Office Building, and bulky furniture was removed. The report also called for a comprehensive study of member meeting rooms and the usage of the Cannon and Longworth courtyard space.

House Commission on Administrative Review, 94th – 95th Congress

Continuing the period of reform, the next congressional session established the Commission on Administrative Review (often referred to as “the Obey Commission,” named after Chairman Rep. David Obey, D-WI). Unlike other committees, this Commission also included private citizens—all of whom were presidents or former presidents of large organizations or interest groups.

The Commission began by gathering a vast amount of data on the administrative practices of the House, including House-wide surveys of Members and their staff. It ultimately focused its work on three areas: the schedule and calendar of the House, ethics rules governing Members, and the administrative processes of the House. It introduced reforms with a rolling approach, passing each set of recommendations as individual packages.

To address the “chaotic and frequently ad hoc” scheduling practices of the House, the Commission recommended that congressional leadership develop a “firm schedule,” so that Members knew when they needed to be in Washington, D.C., for official business. The Commission also suggested changes to House floor procedure that could make scheduling easier, including cutting back time of general debate, reducing the number of roll call votes, and allowing standing committees to meet when the House debated measures under the five-minute rule.

The Joint Commission addressed ethics reforms against a salient backdrop of ethical misconduct. Many of these reforms are still in place today, including financial disclosure statements, a limit on outside earned income, and the use of public funds for personal use. Franking privilege were also limited to congressional districts, 60-days prior to any election. The Commission proposed a Select Committee on Ethics to implement these reforms—now a standing committee in Congress.

Lastly, the Commission recommended several administrative changes for House operations, including a new House Administration Officer, and the inclusion of information beyond floor speeches in the Congressional Record. This Commission also echoed an earlier suggestion from the 1970 Select Committee that called for a central office to help recruit staff, handle staff grievances, and create congressional maternity and disability policies.

House Select Committee on Committees, 96th Congress

A continued realization of the inefficiencies of the committee structure—this time a proliferation of subcommittees—led to the creation of the House Select Committee on Committees in the 96th Congress. Charged with studying committee structure, jurisdiction, staffing, rules and procedures, facilities, and media coverage, the Committee ultimately made five recommendations, with only one ultimately being considered for passage on the House floor. This suggestion was to create a new Energy Committee, outside of the current jurisdiction of the House Commerce Committee, but this was ultimately rejected. The House instead opted to simply change the name of the committee to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, 102nd – 103rd Congress

The motivation behind the bipartisan and bicameral Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress (JCOC) in the 102nd and 103rd Congress closely mirrored the purpose of the very first Joint Committee of 1946: Congress was not keeping up with increasing demands and technological changes. The increasingly negative public perception of Congress motivated Members to seek reforms that would make them more responsive to their constituents.

From January through July 1993, the committee held 36 hearings, receiving testimony from 243 witnesses, several of them current and former Members of Congress. The result was the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1994, introduced in both the House and Senate chambers. Ultimately, attempts to pass this legislation failed. However, some of the recommendations outlined in the legislation were eventually adopted by party leaders and through party caucus rules.

After Republicans gained the majority in the 104th Congress—ending a long-lasting Democratic majority in the House—new congressional leadership adopted the JCOC’s proposal to abolish some committees, including the District of Columbia Committee and Post Office Committee, placing them under the jurisdiction of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Other committee changes were also made, including new term limits for committee and subcommittee chairs, the end of proxy voting, a limit on the number of committee assignments for rank and file Members, and a vast reduction of committee staff.

Beyond committee reforms, the new Republican majority also made administrative changes, including creating a Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), consolidating several security positions into the Sergeant at Arms, and limiting resources for Legislative Study Organizations (caucuses). Changes were also made to the rules and procedures of the House, including a retooled use of the Motion to Recommit, limiting earmarks on appropriations bills, and publicizing signatures on discharge petitions. These reforms are largely credited with strengthening party leadership and centralizing party leaders’ control over legislative activity.

Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, 115th Congress

Prior to the Modernization Committee, the most recent select committee was established in the 115thCongress with the specific purpose to “significantly reform the budget and appropriations process.”[12] This bipartisan and bicameral committee was made up of 16 Members from the House and Senate divided evenly by party. From February to November 2018 the Committee held five hearings, hearing from 12 outside witnesses and 27 Members.

The Committee’s primary recommendation was for a budget resolution to be adopted for a two-year cycle. Ultimately, the draft legislation was not agreed to by the Committee, and the final vote to report the bill as amended fell along party lines, with seven Democratic Members voting for it, and seven Republican Members voting against it. Chapter 11 details this Committee’s recommendations.

The House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, 116th Congress

The reforms put in place by these historical committees have had lasting effects on how Congress functions—from lofty guidance on rules and procedures, to specific changes in how Members communicate and legislate for the American people. The Modernization Committee was developed with these precedents and previous reforms in mind. Like select committees before it, the Modernization Committee was established with the intention of reform: “to investigate, study, make findings, hold public hearings, and develop recommendations on modernizing Congress.”[13]

And like the select committees that came before it, the Modernization Committee was established at a pivotal point in the U.S. Congress. The goal of reform in the 116th Congress was motivated by what Members on both sides of the aisle viewed as unprecedented levels of partisanship, decreasing claim to constitutional powers vested in Article One, the inability to pass essential legislation, and unrelenting disapproval from constituents.

These challenges were visible for all to see. The Modernization Committee’s initial hearings were delayed by the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.[14] In the fall and winter of 2019, the impeachment and Senate trial of President Donald Trump dominated the news and congressional attention.[15] In the Spring of 2020, Congress was thrown into extraordinary uncertainty as the novel Coronavirus spread globally and hit the United States, forcing the U.S. Congress to move to a nearly remote format.[16] Throughout the Spring and Summer of 2020, protests throughout the country highlighted longstanding racial inequalities, mirrored in the lack of diversity in Congress. All the while, Congress remained extremely unpopular with voters—hovering around a 20 percent job approval rating.[17]

However, amidst this tumultuous background, the Modernization Committee stayed focused on what we chartered as our end goal and mission: making Congress work better for the American people. Not only was our mission pertinent, but our innovative and modern approach facilitated productive legislating. For one, the Committee was truly bipartisan, with Members from all areas of the country, motivated to improve Congress on behalf of the American people, and aware of the success—and failures—of the reform committees before us.

Unlike the majority of the previous select committees, the Modernization Committee introduced and passed recommendations on a rolling basis in a series of packages, rather than in one concluding report. As legislative text was successfully introduced in committees of jurisdiction, Members served as bipartisan co-sponsors. Throughout the process the Committee practiced our own recommendations: bipartisan meetings without the glare of camera lights, round table discussions with reform experts, and one shared bipartisan committee staff.

The remainder of this chapter will further detail the creation and membership, jurisdiction, and subsequent hearings and successful legislative output of the Modernization Committee in the 116th Congress.

Creation and Membership

Creation and Extension

Title II of H.Res. 6, the Rules Package passed at the start of the 116th Congress, established the Modernization Committee. As established by Title II of H.Res. 6, topics for investigation included: (1) rules to promote a more modern and efficient Congress; (2) procedures including the schedule and calendar; (3) policies to develop the next generation of leaders; (4) staff recruitment, diversity, retention, and compensation and benefits; (5) administrative efficiencies; (6) technology and innovation; and (7) the Franking Commission.

Title II of H.Res. 6 required the Modernization Committee “to provide interim status reports to the Committee on House Administration and the Committee on Rules. It authorized the Select Committee to report the results of investigations and studies to the House on a rolling basis, along with detailed findings and policy recommendations, and required a final such report at the end of the first session of the 116th Congress.”[18]

In February 2019, the House voted to extend the Modernization Committee’s work to the end of the 116th Congress.[19] This extension was supported by a broad coalition of House Members and reform-oriented organizations, many of whom submitted letters of support to Speaker Pelosi.[20]

The House Rules Committee first approved H.R. 4863, which included language to extend the Modernization Committee, after which the full chamber voted on November 14, 2019 to make the extension official. [21] H.Res. 6 was thus amended to make the final report due on October 31, 2020, with a new expiration date of January 3, 2021.

Membership

Title II of H.Res. 6 directed the Speaker to appoint 12 Members, Delegates, or the Resident Commissioner to serve on the Select Committee, including two Members serving in their first term, two Members of the Committee on Rules, and two Members from the Committee on House Administration. Six of the 12 Members were required to be appointed on the recommendation of the Minority Leader, including one Member from each of the three described categories. The Speaker was directed to designate a Chair, and, on the recommendation of the Minority Leader, a Vice Chair. Full bios of the Members can be found in Section I, Chapter 2.

The following Members were named to the Modernization Committee:

Chair, Derek Kilmer (WA-6) Vice Chair, Tom Graves (GA-14)
Emanuel Cleaver (MO-5) Susan Brooks (IN-5)
Suzan DelBene (WA-1) Rodney Davis (IL-13)
Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) Dan Newhouse (WA-4)
Mark Pocan (WI-2) William Timmons (SC-4)
Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-5) Rob Woodall (GA-7)

 

Hearings and Recommendations

In total, the Modernization Committee held 17 hearings between March 19, 2019 and February 5, 2020. The Committee also held six business meetings to pass the recommendations outlined in this report. Following the transition to remote work in the wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic in March 2020, the Committee held an additional six virtual meetings. In these hearings and meetings, Committee Members heard from dozens of witnesses that spanned from current and former members, academic experts, advocacy organizations, and state and local policymakers. A full list of the hearings, Members present, and witnesses can be found in the Appendix.[22] In addition to congressional hearings, Members participated in round-table discussions and member-only meetings to discuss potential reforms.

At the direction of Select Committee Chair Derek Kilmer and Vice Chair Tom Graves, the committee operated on a fully bipartisan basis. Bipartisan practices included: 1) scattered seating rather than partisan seating at committee hearings; 2) regular bipartisan Member meetings and issue briefings; 3) bipartisan staff operations, including all staff briefings and meetings; 4) regular bipartisan “listening sessions” at the Member and staff levels; and 5) regular joint media appearances and interviews by the Chair and Vice Chair. Chair Kilmer and Vice Chair Graves met regularly with bipartisan groups of colleagues to hear their suggestions for modernizing Congress, and the Committee’s staff director and deputy staff director regularly met with bipartisan groups of congressional staff to hear their suggestions for modernizing Congress.

Hearings

On March 19, 2019, the Select Committee held a Member Day Hearing, as required by Title II of H. Res. 6. Thirty-two House Members testified before the Committee and a total of 35 House Members submitted written testimony. Member testimony covered a wide range of reform topics, including but not limited to: increasing pay for congressional staff and interns; updating House technologies; increasing legislative branch capacity; improving the House schedule and calendar; and, improving civility and bipartisan collaboration in Congress.

The Select Committee held a hearing entitled “Congressional Reforms of the Past and Their Effect on Today’s Congress” on March 27, 2019. This hearing explored the work and recommendations of previous select committees. The hearing also considered how the Committee jurisdiction intersects with previous efforts and how the current political and institutional environments will impact the Committee’s agenda and work.

The Select Committee held a hearing entitled “Former Members Hearing: Speaking from Experience” on May 1, 2019. This hearing featured a bipartisan panel of six former Members of Congress who shared their experiences while serving in Congress and highlighted a number of possible areas for reform. The witnesses focused on a broad range of issues including staff recruitment, transparency, technology, building civility and trust, and improving the quality of life for those working in the legislative branch.

The Select Committee held a hearing titled “Opening up the Process: Recommendations for Making Legislative Information More Transparent” on May 10, 2019. This hearing explored the benefits of making more legislative information available online, the challenges of making information available at scale, and the unintended consequences of too much transparency in the legislative process. The hearing also considered recommendations for making the legislative process more transparent.

The Select Committee held a hearing entitled “Improving Constituent Engagement” on June 5th, 2019. This hearing focused on the current state of constituent communications, new technologies for improving deliberative dialogue between Member offices and constituents, the future of constituent engagement, and recommendations for improving the way Members and staff interact with constituents.

The Select Committee held a hearing titled “Cultivating Diversity and Improving Retention Among Congressional Staff” on June 20, 2019. This hearing focused on fostering diversity in the staff recruitment process, as well as how an inclusive work environment improves staff retention. The hearing also considered benefits available to staff, as well as current trends in public and private employee benefits.

The Select Committee held a hearing titled “Fostering the Next Generation of Leaders: Setting Members up for Success” on July 11, 2019. This hearing focused on the transition to serving in Congress, current resources available for incoming Members, what Congress can do to improve the onboarding experience for new Members, and how Congress can help new Members succeed. The hearing also focused on leadership training best practices at the state level. The hearing was chaired by the Freshmen Members of the Committee—Reps. Mary Gay Scanlon and William Timmons.

The Select Committee held a hearing titled “Modernizing Legislative Information Technologies: Lessons from the States” on July 24, 2019. This hearing focused on innovative uses of legislative information technologies in the states. The Committee heard from top technology officers from the legislatures of Washington, California, and Virginia about how they are using new technologies to improve Member and staff access to legislative information, constituent engagement, and legislative processes. The hearing was designed to stimulate discussion about legislative information technology and constituent engagement innovations that might be relevant to Congress.

The Select Committee held a hearing titled “Recommendations for Improving the Budget and Appropriations Process: A Look at the Work of the Joint Select Committee” on September 19, 2019. This hearing focused on the work of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform (JSC), with emphasis on recommendations made by the JSC that attracted broad bipartisan and bicameral support. The Select Committee focused on perceived problems with the budget and appropriations process and explored recommendations for improving the process in ways that ultimately help Congress better serve the American people.

The Select Committee held a hearing titled “Promoting Civility and Building a More Collaborative Congress” on September 26, 2019. This hearing explored recommendations for promoting civility and encouraging more collaboration across the aisle. The goal of this hearing was to generate a set of realistic, institutional-based recommendations for promoting civility and collaboration.

The Select Committee held a hearing titled “The House Calendar and Schedule: Evaluating Practices and Challenges” on October 16, 2019. This hearing explored the challenges of establishing and managing a House calendar and schedule, including historical and contextual information about prior attempts by Congress to address the calendar and schedule, what happened with prior attempts, and the challenges of imposing one calendar on Members who have multiple, competing demands and different ideas about what the calendar should look like. The hearing also included a look at how Virginia manages its legislative calendar and schedule, including efficiencies undertaken to help members better manage time. The goal of this hearing was to generate a discussion about how the House calendar and schedule might be improved and what measures might be taken to make Member schedules more predictable and efficient.

The Select Committee held a hearing titled “Congress and the Frank: Bringing Congressional Mailing Standards into the 21st Century” on October 31, 2019. The purpose of this hearing was to understand the history of the frank, how it’s been regulated and reformed over the past few decades, and current trends in Member use of the frank. The hearing also considered the rise of social media as a means for constituent and political outreach, trends in how Member offices use social media, and whether Member digital outreach should be regulated in any way. Outside vendor experience in dealing with the frank, along with recommendations for streamlining the way Members communicate with constituents was also discussed.

The Select Committee held a hearing titled “Administrative Efficiencies: Exploring Options to Streamline Operations in the U.S. House of Representatives” on November 15, 2019. This hearing considered a range of options for encouraging administrative efficiencies in Member offices and more generally in the House. Witnesses provided perspective on the House’s historic preference for autonomy in administrative related decision-making, administrative centralization efforts in the Senate (including, for example, IT services, printing, subscriptions, and district leases), and federal agency best practices.

The Select Committee held a hearing titled “Rules and Procedures in the U.S. House of Representatives: A Look at Reform Efforts and State Best Practices” on December 5, 2019. The hearing considered the recent history of proposed changes to House rules and procedures, including efforts to update the rules governing the House floor and committee operations. Witnesses addressed how and why rules reform efforts evolved in the past, whether those reforms were successful, and why changing the House’s rules and procedures often presents challenges. The hearing also considered innovative rules and procedures that state legislatures have implemented, particularly those that promote bipartisan collaboration.

The Select Committee held a hearing titled “Article One: Restoring Capacity and Equipping Congress to Better Serve the American People” on January 14, 2020. This hearing explored Congress’ diminished capacity to function as a co-equal branch of government. The goal of this hearing was to understand why the executive branch has expanded while the legislative branch has not, and to consider recommendations for building capacity and ensuring that Congress can perform its Article One obligations.

The Select Committee held a hearing titled “Article One: Fostering a More Deliberative Process in Congress” on February 5, 2020. This hearing explored the impact of increased political polarization and partisanship on Congress’ ability to execute the Article One principle of debate and deliberation. Witnesses addressed recent historical changes in the procedures and politics of the House that have contributed to this trend and suggested recommendations for fostering a more deliberative process on the House floor and in committee.

The Select Committee held a virtual discussiontitled “Continuity of Committee Work Virtual Discussion” on May 7, 2020. The meeting explored how to continue working effectively on behalf of the American people during the ongoing global pandemic. The Select Committee met virtually with Marci Harris, CEO of PopVox, and Beth Simone Noveck, Director of The Governance Lab and Chief Innovation Officer for the State of New Jersey. The Members and guests discussed best practices for remote committee and Member operations, and ways other legislatures around the world are handling business.

The Select Committee held a virtual discussion titled, “Congress’ Tech Capacity” on May 15, 2020. The goal of the meeting was to evaluate current technical needs for Congress, given the abrupt transition to remote work. Members heard from Travis Moore, Founder and Director of Tech Congress, and Lorelei Kelly Leader of the Resilient Democracy Coalition & based at the Beeck Center for Social Impact and innovation Georgetown University.

The Select Committee held a virtual discussion titled, “Conversation on Remote Work and Best Practices from Federal Agencies” on May 20, 2020. The two guests discussed best practices and identified the challenges facing district staff while working remotely, and the steps federal agencies put in place to protect employees once they return to work in an office environment. Peter M. Weichlein, Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress (FMC), and Kristine Simmons, Vice President for Government Affairs at the Partnership for Public Service, joined the Select Committee virtually to share their expertise.

The Select Committee held a virtual discussion titled, “Conversations on Congressional Staffing” on June 4, 2020. Casey Burgat, director of the Legislative Affairs program at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, and Kathryn Pearson, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, joined the Members to share their expertise and research surrounding congressional staff and staffing trends on Capitol Hill.

The Select Committee held a virtual discussion with the American Political Science Association task force on June 18, 2020. The Members and guests discussed ongoing recommendations for congressional reform, with a specific focus on congressional capacity, the need for a diverse congressional staff, and the congressional schedule and calendar. The witnesses reflected on the 2019 APSA Task Force on Congressional Reform, comprised of more than 30 congressional experts from the academic, think tank and advocacy community that examined the same set of issues given to the Select Committee, and produced a report on their findings along with own recommendations for reform in the House.

The Select Committee held a virtual discussion on boosting internal expertise in Congress on June 25, 2020. The meeting examined the importance of congressional staff expertise, and the role that Congressional Member Organizations (CMOs) play in providing Members with additional information and resources to assist them in their policy making and representational roles. The Select Committee was joined by Lee Drutman, senior fellow in the Political Reform program at New America Foundation; Paul Brathwaite, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) under three CBC chairs, and; Maria Meier, former senior leadership staffer and director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Senate Democratic Diversity Initiative.

Legislative Output

On December 10, 2019, Select Committee Chair Derek Kilmer introduced H.Res. 756, the “Moving Our Democracy and Congressional Operations Towards Modernization Resolution.” The “MODCOM” resolution implemented the first 29 recommendations adopted by the Committee and was co-sponsored by the other 11 Committee Members. Upon introduction, H.Res. 756 was referred to the Committee on House Administration, and was passed by the House of Representatives on March 10, 2019, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote.

H.Res. 756 included recommendations to streamline and reorganize human resources, improve orientation and continued learning opportunities for Members-elect, modernizing and revitalizing technology in the House, improving accessibility both on the Capitol Grounds and online, and improving public access to documents and publications. Full text of the legislation and recommendation can be found in the Appendix, and Section I, Chapter 4 details these, and other, recommendations implemented by the full House.

In addition, the Committee passed two additional packages of recommendations in 2020. While these recommendations did not receive a vote on the floor, largely due the limited congressional schedule during the remote work period, they successfully passed the Committee in a unanimous, bipartisan vote. Full text of these recommendations is provided in the Appendix, and will be detailed throughout this report.

Conclusion

As detailed in this report’s previous chapters, the Committee prioritized reforms to help the legislative branch work more effectively and efficiently for all Americans. Committee Members approached their work with the understanding that recommendations to improve the People’s House should ultimately serve the people. A Congress that works better is better equipped to fulfill its obligations, as the Framers intended, to represent and legislate on behalf of the American people.

Section II describes the important work of previous select committees, some of which recommended reforms that are still utilized in the House today. This Committee broke with the tradition of holding back votes on recommendations until just before the committee is set to expire. Too often, this approach positions committees to succeed—or fail—in one fell swoop. Any public engagement or perception of the committee’s work is limited to just one day and one vote.

Committee Members decided to take a different and more active approach to passing recommendations. As detailed throughout this report, the Committee consistently sought input from internal and external stakeholders, allowing them to actively participate in the process. Committee Members were determined to see the Committee succeed and agreed that listening to the people who work in the People’s House was key to understanding what needed to be fixed. That meant public hearings and public votes on recommendations on a rolling basis. When the Committee had consensus, it took action. 

The result was 97 recommendations, all designed to make Congress work better for all Americans.

These recommendations boost Congress’ technology capacity and communications capabilities so Members can better connect with their constituents. They “open up” Congress so that the American people can see how their Members are voting in committee, and how proposed policies change current law. They create more opportunities to encourage greater bipartisan collaboration, ultimately improving the way Representatives connect, communicate, and legislate for their constituents. And they improve the congressional schedule and calendar, allowing Members less time traveling and more time to meaningfully legislate and solve problems for the people they were elected to serve.

Recommendations to support and improve benefits for congressional staff will help recruit and retain talented individuals who are committed to public service. The recommendations also reflect Committee Members’ desire to see Congress recruit staff who are truly reflective of our nation—diverse in background and in experience.

The Committee also passed recommendations to help Congress reclaim its role as a truly co-equal branch of government and fulfill its constitutional obligations as outlined in Article One. In the midst of a global pandemic, the Committee highlighted gaps in congressional operations and made recommendations that will help future leaders continue serving their constituents without delay.

Despite the Committee’s success in passing 97 recommendations, there are still areas of reform that need to be addressed. Because the Committee’s lifespan was limited, Members chose to focus on areas where there was consensus. There were also many important issues that fell outside of the Committee’s jurisdiction. Committee Members heard many worthy ideas and encourage future select committees, as well as internal and external reformers, to pursue these issues.


Incomplete Reforms and Further Considerations for Future Committees

The recommendations passed by the Committee were designed to bring real, tangible reform to the legislative branch. And because of its commitment to passing recommendations on a rolling basis, the Committee was able to see many of its recommendations implemented in real time. Committee Members, however, acknowledge that many of the issues facing Congress—including technological challenges, the need for more bipartisan collaboration and improved civil discourse, and stronger staff capacity—are not new and will require continued investment and attention in the coming years.

The Committee’s final recommendation is to make modernization a permanent effort. For an institution to remain current, it needs to constantly assess and update. The ability to rapidly adjust operations to reflect modern standards is good practice. An ongoing commitment to modernization and transparent reform on behalf of the American people will ensure the Committee’s mission lives on for future Congress.