September 24, 2020

Select Committee Passes Final Round of Recommendations to Make Congress Work Better for the American People

97 total recommendations have been passed in the committee’s 20 month lifespan

Fifth package would help reclaim Congress’ Article One responsibilities, improve the congressional schedule and calendar, boost congressional capacity and reform the budget and appropriations process  

Washington, D.C. – Today the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (“Select Committee”) passed its fifth and final package of recommendations to make Congress work better for the American people. 40 new recommendations were passed, which aim to help Congress reclaim its Article One responsibilities, improve the congressional schedule and calendar, boost congressional capacity and reform the budget and appropriations process. The Select Committee also voted in favor of its final committee report, which will be released to the public in the coming weeks. Today’s final vote brings the total recommendations passed by the Select Committee to 97.

“Through bipartisan collaboration and a commitment to reform, this committee has delivered nearly 100 recommendations to make Congress work better for the American people. Today’s recommendations will help the legislative branch reclaim its Article One responsibilities, reform the broken budget and appropriations process, and ensure the People’s House has the capacity to meet the needs of those we serve. We are grateful to our committee members and those who have championed our mission to make the legislative branch more efficient, effective, and transparent for all Americans,” said Chair Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Vice Chair Tom Graves (R-GA).

Today’s recommendation topics are outlined below. The full list of recommendations can be seen here.

Reclaiming Article One Responsibilities:

Over the past several decades, Congress’ standing as a co-equal branch of government has softened, while the executive branch has expanded in size and scope of power. Ongoing cuts to the legislative branch hurt congressional capacity, ultimately hurting the American people if Congress is unable to execute at its best.

Recommendation highlights:

  • Recommend the creation of a congressional Community Focused Grant Program that harnesses the authority of Congress under Article One of the Constitution to appropriate federal dollars.
  • Encouraging bipartisan oversight, retreats, trainings and policymaking at the committee level, similar to the way the Select Committee has operated.
  • Increasing capacity for policy staff and congressional support organizations.

Improving the Congressional Schedule and Calendar:

One of the topics the Select Committee heard about the most from Members, former Members and staff was the need for a more predictable, modern work calendar. Members should spend less time traveling and more time legislating.

Recommendation highlights:

  • Establishing a block calendar system for committee scheduling.
  • Create a common committee calendar portal to help with scheduling and reduce conflicts.
  • Create “committee activity only” work days, similar to how Congress has operated in the last few months.

Reforming the Budget and Appropriations Process:

When it comes to the annual budget and appropriations process, since Fiscal Year 2012 not a single standalone appropriations bill has been signed into law. Since 1977, Congress has only passed all 12 appropriations bills before the end of the Fiscal Year four times.

Recommendation highlights:

  • There should be an annual Fiscal State of the Nation, to better inform our policy making and ensure taxpayers know how their dollars are being spent.
  • Require a biennial budget resolution.
  • Ensure that Congress adheres to a more realistic budget timeline.

Enhancing Congressional Capacity:

The Select Committee has talked with hundreds of congressional staff about ways to improve retention and recruitment on Capitol Hill. The average time staff stay in a position in Congress is 2 years. Constant turnover hurts the institution and the people its designed to serve.

Recommendation highlights:

  • Reevaluate and increase the Members Representational Allowance (MRA) to ensure Congress can meet current and future challenges, like the ongoing pandemic and the importance of retaining top policy staff.
  • Establish a voluntary, nonbinding pay band system.
  • Delink the staff pay cap from Member pay.
  • Increase options to health insurance for congressional staff.

About the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress

Created by an overwhelming bipartisan vote at the beginning of the 116th Congress, the Select Committee was tasked to produce recommendations on rules to promote a more modern and efficient Congress; procedures, including the schedule and calendar; policies to develop the next generation of leaders; staff recruitment, diversity, retention, and compensation and benefits; administrative efficiencies, including purchasing, travel, outside services, and shared administrative staff; technology and innovation; and the work of the House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards.

Since March 2019 the Select Committee has held 16 hearings, six virtual discussions, and numerous Member and staff-level briefings and listening sessions to solicit ideas and recommendations for reforming the legislative branch. On a rolling basis throughout the year, the Select Committee issued recommendations and shared ideas for reform on a bipartisan basis. Last fall, after widespread bipartisan support throughout Capitol Hill, the Select Committee and its work was extended through the end of the 116th Congress. The rule that created the Select Committee originally had it set to expire on February 1, 2020. The extension allowed the Select Committee to continue its work proposing bipartisan reforms to make Congress work better for the American people.