June 23, 2022

Can Congress be a little more like a tech company? Maybe

by Chris Cioffi

Congress isn’t Google — but it should start acting more like a tech giant.  That was the message members of the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress got from a trio of witnesses Thursday who discussed ways the nearly 250-year-old institution could get with the tech-centric times.  “Like we did with C-SPAN in the ’80s, websites in the ’90s and social media in the early 21st century, we need to adopt modern digital tools to improve … Continue Reading

May 25, 2022

Modernizing Congress is select committee’s improbable mission

by Mike De Felice

Many Americans are fed up with politicians in Washington D.C., and feel lawmakers spend too much time tweeting shots at each other rather than working on legislation to help the country. The national polls bear that out: Congress’s approval rating was pegged at a dismal 18 percent in a recent Gallup poll. A wisecrack making the rounds captures how many folks feel about the legislators on Capitol Hill: “Did you hear about the hurricane that went through Washington, D.C. today? It … Continue Reading

January 29, 2022

The promise of the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress

by Jerry Hartz, Muftiah Mccartin, Kyle Nevins, and Thomas J. Wickham Jr.

In December, the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress released its most recent recommendations to the U.S. House of Representatives. These recommendations add to the Select Committee’s recommendations from last Congress, two thirds of which have already been or are nearly implemented. The latest recommendations address staff recruitment, diversity, retention, and compensation; civility and collaboration; congressional support agencies; and evidenced-based policymaking. … Continue Reading

January 20, 2022

‘Fix Congress’ panel enters final year with ‘dry topics,’ vows not to rest

by Chris Cioffi

The House Clerk’s office is tired of playing legislative telephone. Clerk Cheryl Johnson, who oversees many record-keeping-related tasks in the House, said her staff is working toward a simpler future. Right now, Congress has four different formats for writing and viewing legislation, which must be translated or reformatted several times during the lawmaking process. The goal is to get to one. “A critical but often dry topic to discuss is standard-setting,” she said … Continue Reading

December 08, 2021

Modernization panel OKs latest recommendations, sprinkles Congress with its ‘secret sauce’

by Chris Cioffi

A drab room in the Capitol complex once again felt like an oasis Wednesday morning, as the “fix Congress” panel approved its latest set of recommendations.  Elsewhere on the Hill, tempers flared and lawmakers traded blame over how much legislating was left to do before the end of the year. But for the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, the word of the day was “civility.” “Congress was designed to be a deliberative body, where members not … Continue Reading

October 28, 2021

Modernization Committee tracks its own progress as clock keeps ticking

by Chris Cioffi

The House Modernization of Congress Committee wants to make sure its recommendations don’t end up like some of its predecessors’ did — collecting dust on a shelf. The panel released its latest progress report Thursday, tracking the 97 recommendations it made last Congress and whether they’ve gone anywhere. More than 60 percent of them have, the report says. From the very beginning, the panel has tried to do things differently as it tries to cure what ails the … Continue Reading

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 23, 2021

Civility in Congress has turned into a joke. This panel is taking it seriously

by Chris Cioffi

The “Fix Congress” committee got so much out of its first two hearings this year on the elusive goal of civility, it agreed to hold a third. “In my first year in Congress, and when there was minimal back and forth, it was nasty,” said Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress Vice Chairman William R. Timmons IV. “We need to have legitimate conversations on the challenges facing the American public, and we can’t do that in the current … 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 17, 2021

Some good news on bipartisanship: The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress

by Stuart M. Butler and Timothy Higashi

After this divisive election, it is widely assumed that polarization and a lack of inter-party cooperation will be the norm for at least the next few years. But while that seems likely to be true generally in Congress, there have been some important exceptions recently, and they should give us some hope that collaboration is possible, even in such areas as federal budgeting.  While internecine political warfare is the most visible characteristic in Congress, outside the limelight the … Continue Reading

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