July 29, 2021

Select Committee Passes First Set of Bipartisan Recommendations in the 117th Congress

20 new recommendations aim to make the People’s House more accessible, while strengthening the institution through increased staff capacity

Today, the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (“Select Committee”) passed its first set of recommendations in the 117th Congress, following the Committee  being extended through this Congress.

This package of recommendations follows multiple hearings that investigated how Congress can better serve the American people by professionalizing internships and fellowships, increasing staff capacity, retaining a diverse and representative workforce, and ensuring accessibility for all Americans.

“Today, the Select Committee advanced a new set of bipartisan recommendations to make Congress work better for the American people,” said Chair Kilmer. “Staff are the first people our constituents encounter when they reach out to the federal government for help. They also help Members work through complicated policy questions and ensure that their constituents’ views are reflected in the policy making process. Members can’t do their jobs without the support of staff and that’s exactly why Congress needs to do more to support them. That’s why most of today’s recommendations focused on enhancing the recruitment, retention, and diversity of congressional staff. This committee was also proud to advance additional recommendations to make the House more accessible for people with disabilities. The People’s House needs to be accessible for all people.

“I came to Washington because our government is broken,” said Vice Chair Timmons. “I am proud of the steps that this important committee has made to fix our government and ensure that it is working better and more efficiently for the American people. The 20 recommendations the Select Committee passed today will ensure the House is accessible to all Americans and is working to retain a talented and diverse workforce to make Congress more effective. I look forward to working with my colleagues throughout the rest of this Congress to continue tackling tough issues facing this institution and delivering long-lasting solutions for the future.”

Below is a list of key recommendations. A full list of recommendations can also be found here.

Improve Accessibility: 

  • ADA Drop off/Pick up Zone: The House should designate a drop off and pick up zone near an accessible entrance for members of the public with mobility impairments and develop a clear process for accessing the new drop-off point. 
  • Accessible Websites: The House should promote awareness of accessibility requirements for Member and committee websites and provide training and tools for staff to help them properly maintain and update those sites. 

Improve Staff Recruitment, Diversity, Retention, and Compensation and Benefits 

  • Update and Align Staff Benefits to Increase Retention: The House should establish and maintain a “Task Force on the House Workforce,” led by the Chief Administrative Officer and comprised of other House offices to make ongoing policy recommendations on updating staff benefits to ensure we are retaining out nation’s best and brightest.
  • Supporting the Office of Employee Assistance: The Office of Employee Assistance should seek to retain a diverse workforce, offer access to bilingual services to ensure we are able to support a work force that is representative of the American people.
  • Talent Acquisition Software: The Chief Administrative Officer should provide access to industry-leading talent acquisition software to assist House offices in managing their recruitment and hiring processes to ensure we have a strong work force serving our country.

Professionalize Internships and Fellowships:  

  • Intern & Fellowship Program Office or Coordinator: The House should establish an Intern and Fellowship Program Office or Coordinator that helps with onboarding, developing educational curriculum, professional development, and training for office coordinators. 
  • Remote Internships: The House should study the feasibility of permanently allowing remote internships to expand accessibility of internship programs

The following organizations voiced their support of committee recommendations.

“The Partnership for Public Service appreciates the committee’s thorough attention to these critical issues and applauds its bipartisan efforts to strengthen Congress,” said Jeff McNichols, director of the Partnership’s Alliance for Congress, a new initiative designed to help Congress invest in its own capacity to tackle big issues and serve the public good.

“The recommendations approved today by the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress are by far the most sweeping and comprehensive steps the House could take to enhance staff professional development, attract and retain a high-quality workforce, and modernize the Capitol Hill campus to be accessible to more Americans. It's almost breathtaking how far and fast this committee has come in such a short period of time, perfectly assessing the needs of the House and recommending a constructive course of action. For 44 years it has been an honor for CMF to work with the Congress to improve the management of offices and enhance the professional development of staff. This set of recommendations, combined with the previous 97 recommendations, have the potential to make historic improvements to the House. CMF looks forward to continuing to work with the Committee and other offices within the Congress to implement these changes so that the dedicated public servants, and the American public, can realize the benefits of this amazing work.”- Congressional Management Foundation

“The Bipartisan Policy Center and Bipartisan Policy Center Action applaud the committee and its leadership for focusing on key areas of improvement: the recruitment, development, and retention of congressional staff and increasing accessibility to Congress. These proposals are critical in allowing Congress to better serve the American people by maintaining a highly skilled and more diverse workforce and allowing the public to better access and understand what is happening in their own government. We look forward to working with the committee and the House to move these recommendations forward," says Michele Stockwell, Executive Director of Bipartisan Policy Center Action

“As an association made up of Former Members of Congress, our membership immediately recognizes the hugely beneficial impact of these twenty key reforms proposed by the SCMC. What is envisioned by the committee would strengthen this vital institution by supporting its most valuable resource: Congressional staff at all levels. These commonsense proposals include providing management trainings for supervisors and expanding internship opportunities, to name just a few examples. Their aim clearly is to create a more efficient and accountable government, and also to retain top notch professionals who are working on behalf of the American people,” said Peter Weichlein, CEO of the Former Members of Congress Association (FMC)“FMC looks forward to working with the Select Committee as these and future recommendations make their way through the legislative process.”

"The mission of the Select Committee — to make the legislative branch work better for the people — remains a vitally important effort before this Congress. We applaud these new recommendations, which will make the House of Representatives a stronger institution by improving staff retention, diversity, and pay. We urge Republicans and Democrats to work together to implement these proposals, because Americans deserve a responsive legislative branch that is able to meet the challenges of our modern democracy," said Meredith McGehee, Executive Director.

“The House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress is off to a tremendous start in the 117th Congress, and its first tranche of 20 bipartisan recommendations, should they be implemented, would strengthen staff capacity, diversity, and retention; expand opportunities for interns and fellows; and increase accessibility on Capitol Hill,” said Taylor Swift, policy advisor at Demand Progress. “In particular, the Modernization Committee’s recommendations that update and align staff benefits, expand staff onboarding information, collect demographic data, and establish an Intern and Fellowship Program Office or Coordinator represent a commitment to investing in a more representative and diverse workforce. We hope the House will implement these proposals.”

“We congratulate Chair Kilmer, Vice Chair Timmons, and all of the Members of the House Select Committee on Modernization on the approval of the first 20 recommendations of the 117th Congress. We especially note the recommendation for creation of a “Task Force on the House Workforce,” which goes beyond simply addressing today's workforce issues to establish a process for ongoing assessment and continuous improvement. Ultimately, “modernization” is not a box to be checked, it is ongoing institutional agility in the face of changing conditions.”- Popvox

"These recommendations are a win for constituents. Americans deserve ease of access to Congress’ halls of power, the expertise and information within the institution, and to be represented by Members staffed by well-equipped individuals that reflect the vibrant makeup of the country."

"The work of the Select Committee to strengthen and sustain the First Branch of government is an essential part of the urgent need to restore Congress’ Power of the Purse. And the Committee is racking up wins without the rancor that infects other corners of Congress. Members and voters should pay closer attention to the achievements that are possible by adhering to the Select Committee’s model of mutual respect and consensus building," said Nan Swift, Governance Program Fellow, R Street Institute.

David Eisner, CEO of Convergence, said, “With these recommendations, the Select Committee continues to forcefully answer those who say that ‘civility,’ ‘collegiality,’ and ‘collaboration’ are niceties not connected to real progress: it’s no coincidence that the Select Committee is both the body in Congress with the most advanced protocols promoting respectful collaboration and also an outperforming generator of meaningful work that is universally bipartisan and usually unanimously supported.”