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On Friday, January 4, the House voted (418-12) to establish the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. The 12 person committee was created as part of the House rules package (a section by section analysis of the rules package can be found here) and will consist of six Democrats and six Republicans appointed by Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy. At least two members will be drawn from the Rules Committee, two from the House Administration Committee, and two from the freshman class.

Speaker Pelosi named Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) chair of the select committee. The remaining 11 members have not yet been announced.

The panel, which must issue its final report at the end of this year, is tasked with studying and making recommendations for modernizing Congress. More specifically, the committee will look at 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.

The select committee will hold public hearings and be required to provide an interim status report to the House Administration and Rules committees every 90 days. The committee will not have legislative authority and will formally terminate on February 1, 2020.

The New Democrats Coalition, the Problem Solvers Caucus, the Congress of Tomorrow project, the Rebuild Congress Initiative, individual members like Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), and a number of non-government organizations and actors have pushed for House rules reform and the creation of such a committee (or a version thereof). The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress is a major step toward the realization of these ongoing efforts to build congressional capacity and strengthen the institution.

Resources and Recommendations

Previous Reform Efforts:

Congressional Research Service Report for Congress: Reorganization of the House of Representatives: Modern Reform Efforts (2003).

Congressional Institute: Joint Committees on the Organization of Congress: A Short History. October 15, 2015.

Donald R. Wolfensberger, Woodrow Wilson Center and Bipartisan Policy Center: A Brief History of Congressional Reform Efforts. February 22, 2013.

Casey Burgat, R Street Institute: Congressional Reorganization Acts. November 2, 2018.

CQ Almanac: Congressional Reforms Made In 1975 (1975).

Final Report of the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress (1993).

Congressional Institute: Lessons Learned from the 1993 Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. January 2019.

Reform options/recommendations:

Members of Congress:

Reps. Darin LaHood and Dan Lipinski: Text of H.Con.Res.28 – Establishing a Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress and press release. February 21, 2017.

Members’ Day Hearing on Proposed Rules Changes for the 116th Congress. September 13, 2018.

Committee on House Administration Hearing on IT Assessment: A Ten-Year Vision for Technology in the House (pdf transcriptvideo). September 2006.

CRS reports:

Congressional Research Service Report for Congress: House Legislative Procedures and House Committee Organization: Options for Change in the 112th Congress (November 18, 2010).

Congressional Research Service Report for Congress: House Schedule: Recent Practices and Proposed Options (February 2, 2001).

Congressional Research Service Report for Congress: House Committee System: Jurisdiction and Referral Reform Options (March 24, 2004).

Non-government organizations:

Bipartisan Policy Center: Congress of Tomorrow project.

Congressional Institute: Congressional Reform White Papers.

Coalition: Letter to the U.S. House of Representatives on Congressional Capacity from the New America Foundation, R Street Institute, Brookings Institution, American Enterprise Institute, and Campaign Legal Center. March 19, 2016.

Demand Progress Action co-authored letter: Ten Principles for Reforming the Rules of the House of Representatives. September 12, 2018.

Harvard Negotiation Project and Issue One: Rebuild Congress Initiative.

Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group: Congressional Reorganization Act 101: Past, Present and Future Proposals (event video). January 8, 2019.

Problem Solvers Caucus:  Break the Gridlock. July 2018.

Daniel Schuman, Demand Progress Action: House Rules Reform Recommendations. September 12, 2018.

Daniel Schuman, Demand Progress Action: Legislative Language Proposals for the House Rules. December 5, 2018.

Donald R. Wolfensberger, Woodrow Wilson Center: Getting Back to Legislating: Reflections of a Congressional Working Group. November 27, 2012.

Kevin R. Kosar, Lee Drutman, Paul Glastris, Yuval Levin, Jonathan Rauch, and Molly Reynolds: Restoring Congress as the First Branch. January 2016.

Kevin R. Kosar and Adam Chan: A Case for Stronger Congressional Committees. August 2016.

Kevin R. Kosar: How to Strengthen Congress. August 2015.

Casey Burgat and Ryan Dukeman, R Street Institute: Human capital and institutional decline in congressional appropriations committees. December 17, 2018.

Zach Graves and Kevin R. Kosar, R Street Institute: Bring in the Nerds: Reviving the Office of Technology Assessment. January 2018.

Zach Graves, R Street Institute: Rebuilding a technology assessment office in Congress: Frequently asked questions. October 1, 2018.

News items, blog posts, and opinion (most recent first)

Paul Blumenthal, “Congress Might Actually Do Something To Stop Itself From Sucking So Much,” Huffington Post. January 17, 2019.

Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and Nick Schaper, “Debugging digital democracy in Congress,” Washington Times. January 14, 2019.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., “Why is Congress so dumb?” Washington Post. January 11, 2019.

National Journal, “Wednesday Q+A with Rep. Derek Kilmer,” National Journal. January 9, 2019.

Richard Skinner, “Congress finally stands up for itself,” Vox. January 7, 2019.

Tajha Chappellet-Lanier, “There’s a new select committee for modernizing Congress. What does it mean for legislative IT?” FedScoop. January 7, 2019.

John Haskell, “Congressional reform without the ideology,” LegBranch. January 7, 2019.

Press release, “Kilmer named chair of Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress,” Rep. Derek Kilmer’s office. January 4, 2019.

Lindsey McPherson, “First big bipartisan vote establishes House select committee on modernizing Congress,” Roll Call. January 4, 2019.

Don Wolfensberger, “Democrats’ rules package stiffs House Republicans and Senate,” The Hill. January 3, 2019.

Casey Burgat, “House Democrats revealed their rules package. Here are the biggies.” LegBranch. January 2, 2019.

Derek Willis, “Will Pelosi open the floor to bipartisan ideas?” New York Times. January 2, 2019.

Ella Nilsen, “House Democrats are making changes to decentralize power,” Vox. January 2, 2019.

Tim Roemer, “Freshman lawmakers should use the rules package vote to make Congress more transparent, accountable,” The Hill. December 19, 2018.

Don Wolfensberger and Tom Spulak, “Getting back to governing,” The Hill. December 3, 2018.

Casey Burgat and Joshua Huder, “Examining the Problem Solvers Caucus proposed rules changes,” LegBranch. November 27, 2018.

LegBranch, “House “Dear Colleague” letter soliciting support for bipartisan rules reforms in the 116th Congress,” LegBranch. October 22, 2018.

Casey Burgat, “The House asked members for their ideas to make Congress work better. This is what they suggested,” LegBranch. September 24, 2018.

Press release, “New Democrat Coalition urges rules changes to restore our democracy,” New Democrat Coalition. September 13, 2018.

Lindsey McPherson, “Good government groups urge ‘systematic reform’ of House rules,” Roll Call. September 12, 2018.

Kevin Kosar, “Video: History of congressional staffing,” LegBranch. September 5, 2018.

Mike Lillis, “Dems vow rules overhaul to empower members if House flips,” The Hill. September 1, 2018.

Kevin Kosar, “Congressional reform is way overdue,” LegBranch. August 2, 2018.

Jonathan Bernstein, “There’s a right way to overhaul Congress,” Bloomberg. June 19, 2018.

Carl Hulse, “Can the House speakership be saved? These lawmakers have an idea,” New York Times. June 16, 2018.

Zach Graves, “Technology assessment: Can the GAO fulfill the OTA’s mission?” LegBranch. April 20, 2018.

James Curry and Frances Lee, “What is “regular order” worth?” LegBranch. April 4, 2018.

Marian Currinder, “Rep. Darin LaHood on congressional dysfunction and the prospects for reform,” LegBranch. March 1, 2018.

Derek Kilmer, “How to stop government shutdowns,” Time. January 24, 2018.