January 14, 2020

Select Committee Examines Article One Capacity

Washington, D.C. – The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (“Select Committee”) today held a hearing to explore ways to boost Congress’ current capacity and ensure it is meeting its obligations and duties as outlined in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. “Article One: Restoring Capacity and Equipping Congress to Better Serve the American People,” examined why over the past several decades the executive branch has expanded in size and scope of power, while the legislative branch has not, and ways that Congress continues to fall behind in terms of operational capacity.

“Members of this committee have been deeply invested in our work to make Congress work better for the American people. We have identified a number of key areas for reform, and today’s hearing gave us an opportunity to look inward at the institution and better understand where and why our capacity as a co-equal branch of government has diminished. We are committed to rebuilding Congress’ role as a truly equal branch so that we are able to better serve all Americans,” said Chair Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Vice Chair Tom Graves (R-GA).

Rachel Augustine Potter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Politics, University of Virginia; Kevin Kosar, Ph.D., Vice President, Research Partnerships, R Street Institute; Elise Bean, Washington Co-Director, Levin Center at Wayne Law, Wayne State University, and; John Hudak, Ph.D., Deputy Director, Center for Effective Public Management, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, The Brookings Institute testified to the changes seen in the various branches of government and ways that Congress could rebuild its influence and work on behalf of the country.

Dr. Potter highlighted the changes of the executive branch and its growing power in the decades following World War II. She shared how a dysfunctional Congress further empowers the executive.

Dr. Kosar spoke about Congress’ ability to meet its Article One legislative and oversight responsibilities, and defines congressional capacity as “the human and physical infrastructure Congress needs to resolve public problems through legislating, budgeting, holding hearings, and conducting oversight.” He focused specifically on congressional staff reductions, particularly in committee staff.

Ms. Bean highlighted the legislative branch’s investigative and oversight powers, and offered four proposals that would enhance this capacity in Congress.

Dr. Hudak shared his belief that Congress has undermined its spending authority in three specific ways: the breakdown in the appropriations process, the weakening of congressional oversight, and the decision to ban earmarks.