September 23, 2021

Lawmakers Pitch Civility as Big Spending Spats Take Center Stage

Allowing lawmakers of differing parties to be chief sponsors on legislation and requiring committees to adopt civility standards are two of the proposals being floated for lowering the temperature on Capitol Hill. The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress held a hearing on the topic Thursday, as the chamber is beset by partisan and intraparty tensions over raising the debt ceiling, big-spending bills, and even blueberries. "There is some value in just trying to get a better sense … Continue Reading

September 13, 2021

Kilmer roundtable: Working to modernize Congress for the 21st century

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, the Democrat representing the 6th Congressional District in Congress, sat down Aug. 20 for a roundtable discussion with reporters from the Kitsap Daily News on issues of local and regional importance, including his work as chairman of the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. The select committee's mission, he said, is to make Congress more accessible to the American people and to strengthen the institution by better equipping staff members to handle … Continue Reading

September 10, 2021

Capitol Hill tries to tackle its brain drain

FLAILING? BAILING? HILL TALKS RETENTION ISSUES - Lawmakers want to reverse the brain drain caused by top aides leaving, but it's not clear whether the promise of future pay bumps and proposals for expanded benefits can counteract the strain of working long hours in an environment where they've experienced an insurrection, a bomb threat and a vehicle attack in less than a year. (And for entry- and mid-level aides, those pay bumps and benefits aren't just around the corner.) A former House aide … Continue Reading

September 10, 2021

Congress wakes up to its staff retention problems after Covid, bomb threats and riots

Congressional Democratic leaders are trying to stem a tide of staff turnover in both parties after a year that has tested the Hill's mental health and sense of safety. The efforts might not be enough. Retention problems have plagued congressional offices for years, exacerbated by lagging pay and a patchwork of benefits - and that was before the Jan. 6 riot that threatened the lives of aides as well as members. The pandemic is its own existential threat to Hill aides who, in many cases, must … Continue Reading

July 24, 2021

Can this 'marriage' be saved? How conservatives and liberals can learn to trust again

by Dr. William Doherty

Over the past few years, I've led dozens of workshops in which ordinary Americans across the ideological spectrum share their strongly held political views. It's no surprise that liberals and conservatives have deep disagreements on the core issues facing America. But they usually agree on one thing: Congress is broken. As one participant exclaimed: "Please stop fighting all the time and get things done!" As another reflected: "Neither side is going to finally vanquish the other. So we'd … Continue Reading

July 23, 2021

People often ask what the power of the committee is, and the power of this committee is consensus

On Wednesday, The Ripon Society and Franklin Center for Global Policy Exchange held a luncheon discussion with Yuri Beckelman and Derek Harley, the two Staff Directors leading The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. The Select Committee was created in January of 2019 and has the herculean task of finding a way to make Congress more effective, efficient, and transparent. Beckelman kicked off the event by discussing the core mission of the panel. "People often ask what the power … Continue Reading

June 11, 2021

The Hill: Making Congress more effective for the American people

We have followed the work of the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress with great interest. Since serving together in the United States Senate, both of us have been focused on the kinds of reforms that the Select Committee is charged with considering. Each of us has written a book recommending institutional changes that would help Congress better serve the American people. The Select Committee has done outstanding work. Everyday Americans are also impressed. The National … Continue Reading

June 09, 2021

Roll Call: Lawmakers seek funds to improve the workings of Congress

The leaders of a bipartisan panel tasked with modernizing Congress on Wednesday urged the House Appropriations Committee to fund several changes they say would improve the lives of members and staff as well as how the institution itself functions. Washington Democrat Derek Kilmer and South Carolina Republican William R. Timmons IV asked appropriators to help the House Modernization of Congress Committee implement several of the 97 recommendations it made during the last Congress. Kilmer, … Continue Reading

June 05, 2021

Roll Call: Staff Training key to shifting attitudes on accessibility for disability community

Many staffers are heading back to Capitol Hill, and official visitors aren't far behind, but the return to offices is prompting questions about gaps in physical and digital accessibility in Congress for staff, lobbyists, constituents and lawmakers with disabilities. With historic buildings and slow adoption of technology, Congress still has a long way to go to make itself accessible not just in the physical space but also online, where so much business has been conducted in the past … Continue Reading

June 05, 2021

The Hill: Experienced staff promote effective lawmaking

Members of Congress are wrestling with the 97 bipartisan recommendations put forward last year by the newly reestablished Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. Among them are proposals to increase legislative staff pay. Supporters argue that salary increases are needed to recruit and retain the best legislative aides. Yet, the public is skeptical about spending more on Congress, which they judge as not doing a very good job. At the Center for Effective Lawmaking, we know that … Continue Reading

May 13, 2021

RollCall: Capitol Staff Diversity ‘can’t just start at the

Narrow talent pipelines, pigeonholing of portfolio issues and casual microaggressions from colleagues and bosses are some of the issues hampering efforts to recruit and retain House staffers that represent the diversity of the nation and districts they represent, witnesses told the House Modernization of Congress Committee on Thursday. The House Office of Diversity and Inclusion, or ODI, is now a permanent resource for the chamber, and there is funding to pay interns. But those alone are not … Continue Reading

May 13, 2021

The Hill: Head of House Office of Diversity and Inclusion urges more staff diversity

The House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress on Thursday held a hearing on increasing calls for congressional staffers to be more representative of the country's population. "Our constituents are better served by staff who reflect the diversity in our districts and our country," committee chair Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) said in his opening statement. "Members are better served by staff who bring a diversity of perspectives to the policymaking process. We do our jobs better … Continue Reading

March 11, 2021

Roll Call: Planning for a post-pandemic Congress underway

When the Capitol closed to the public a year ago and congressional staffers were scrambling to acquire and set up laptops in anticipation of mandatory remote work, every announcement and "Dear Colleague" letter explaining the shutdown anticipated it lasting just a few weeks. Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Congress to adapt and, in some cases, accelerated shifts in operations that had long been goals of staff and lawmakers but were stuck in the inertia of the institution's arcane and … Continue Reading

March 11, 2021

Roll Call: Will Congress continue using tech tools forced by COVID-19?

Congress, like corporate America and the rest of the world, was forced to adopt remote working technologies and other digital collaborative tools a year ago as the coronavirus shut down the global economy. Now, as the pace of vaccination across the country picks up and a return to pre-pandemic normal appears increasingly possible, lawmakers and reform advocates are debating whether Congress should keep using the new tech tools even after the pandemic ends. Some lawmakers say that remote … Continue Reading

December 11, 2020

Federal News Network: An update on modernizing Congress

It may not gain a lot of traction with constituents, but modernizing the Congress itself is a high priority for at least a few members. Among them, members of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. Its recommendations cover a lot of territory. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) is the chairman of the committee. He spoke with Federal Drive with Tom Temin for a progress report and what we might expect in the 117th … Continue Reading

December 11, 2020

Wall Street Journal: Earmarks Get Makeover Before Possible Return

A BIPARTISAN GROUP of lawmakers makes a push to bring back a form of earmarks-lawmakers' ability to direct federal funding to specific projects -but with more transparency and accountability. The 12 members of the bipartisan House Select Committee on Modernization, a group responsible for updating how Congress operates, are pushing to start a program of "community-focused grants," which they hope would help restore Congress's role in making specific decisions about spending taxpayer … Continue Reading

December 09, 2020

NPR: Democrats Want To Bring Earmarks Back As Way To Break Gridlock In Congress

When earmarks were a regular feature of congressional business, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said Democrats and Republicans were able to cut more deals and pass more bills with bipartisan support. "This used to be time where everybody was 'Hallelujah,' I mean Republicans, Democrats, dancing, kissing. This is the time to be saved," he recalled at a congressional hearing this year in regard to legislation such as the highway bill. Cleaver served on the bipartisan Select Committee on the … Continue Reading

November 30, 2020

The Hill: Congress must reclaim its Article I powers in order to earn back public trust

Polling suggests that Congress is less popular than head lice and colonoscopies. For many Americans, Congress is viewed through the lens of numbing gridlock, government shutdowns, and snarky Twitter battles. Sadly, Congress - by choice or by default - has often ceded much of its constitutional authorities to the executive and judicial branches or simply fallen into the category of "the broken branch" of government. As the COVID-19 public health crisis and economic fallout continue to affect … Continue Reading

November 13, 2020

Episode 11: BPC Action's Under the Dome on Modernizing Congress featuring Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and William Timmons (R-SC)

On the podcast this month, BPC Action's Executive Director Michele Stockwell gives us the lay of the land for the 117th Congress and what to expect the first few months of a Biden or Trump Administration. Also on the show: Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and William Timmons (R-SC), who serve on the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, share more about the committee's work to make Congress more efficient and effective-and what's next on the modernization … Continue Reading

November 12, 2020

Roll Call: New House member orientation features significant shifts

The freshly elected newcomers of the House descend Thursday on Washington for the start of the new member orientation. But this time, they face the challenge of meeting future colleagues from behind masks, one of many changes that makes the biennial event much different from previous years. Electoral winners from around the country will come together for lunches, tours and briefings, mixing and mingling for the first time. Orientation marks the first real taste of life as a member of Congress … Continue Reading

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