Orientation courses and services should be available to all new Members (including those incoming from a special election) and presented in a nonpartisan way.
Ensuring that new Members have a productive and informative orientation sets them up for success. However, there are no archived audio or visual recordings of orientation sessions, and orientation is not provided to Members who win special elections. As freshman Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon noted in a July 11, 2019 hearing, “As the winner of a special election, I was sworn in seven days after Election Day and experienced the process on hyper-speed.” Newly-elected Members who participate in the traditional November orientation typically can’t attend every session offered. Committee member, and freshman Rep. William Timmons discussed his own challenges with new Member orientation:
Image 4.2: Rep. William Timmons speaks during the Select Committee’s hearing about onboarding and continuing education for Members.
“We’re currently being livestreamed, recorded, and archived. Have we ever recorded new Member orientation and then made it available online for Members to view at a later date? … I missed a number of opportunities to learn and I know a number of other Members did as well. I imagine we already have the technology available so it wouldn’t be hard.”
Rep. William Timmons, July 11, 2019
The Committee learned that some state legislatures are recording their new member orientations and making them available online and thought it essential that Congress do the same. Members who miss training sessions, or simply want to review what they learned when they were “drinking from the fire hose”, should have online access to orientation and onboarding programming.
Freshman Members also shared with the Committee their view that separating orientation sessions by political party furthers partisanship in Congress. While this is not the case with all orientation sessions, Members are split by party for some sessions. Partisan training discourages collaborative partnerships between Members, many who feel they were sent to Washington to help “fix” partisan dysfunction. Separating Members by party only furthers the polarized mentality that many find detrimental to the institution.
To address these concerns and to further the mission of setting up Members for success, the Committee recommended that: orientation courses and services should be available to all new Members (including those incoming from a special election) and presented in a nonpartisan way. The Committee specified that orientation sessions should be video-recorded and made easily accessible year-round in an electronic format so that Members can access them at their convenience.