June 25, 2021

ICYMI: Select Committee Holds Second Hearing to Improve Civility and Cooperation in Congress

The second hearing featured experts in organizational psychology, cultural change and conflict resolution to explore how Congress can build a more collaborative culture

Chair Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Vice Chair William Timmons (R-SC) of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (“Select Committee”) held a hearing to examine ways to  foster civility and collaboration in Congress to combat the high levels of polarization that the institution currently faces.

During the hearing, titled “Rethinking Congressional Culture: Lessons from the Fields of Organizational Psychology and Conflict Resolution,” members heard from experts in organizational psychology, cultural change and conflict resolution who shared examples from their field and “out of the box” ways to help bridge the partisan divide in Congress.

“Over the past several months I have been grappling with the question: How do I effectively chair a bipartisan committee in an environment that incentivizes partisanship? A lot of what happens in Congress currently doesn’t feel very constructive,” said Chair Kilmer.   “But all of this is to say, we are not dealing with broken rules and procedures- we are dealing with broken norms.

“Improving civility and cooperation is some of the most important work that this Committee has undertaken, and successfully addressing it would allow us to vastly improve this dysfunctional institution,” said Vice Chair Timmons. “Right now the loudest voice is the one that is heard, but the loudest voice is never going to be the one that solves the problem. That is why we need to find a way to incentivize collaboration and policy making once again.”

Expert witnesses included Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and leading professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; William Doherty, co-founder of Braver Angels and the creator of the Braver Angels workshop approach to bridging political divides; Amanda Ripley, an investigative journalist and the author or High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out; and Kris Miler, an associate professor in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland who focuses on cooperation and conflict in the U.S. House through the lens of organizational psychology.

The Committee also continued to employ new rules and conducted the hearing in a roundtable format. The members all sat around a conference table with the witnesses to encourage discussion and engagement.

You can watch the full hearing HERE.

Read the full hearing transcript below:


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