Legislation & policy analysis

Select Committee on Modernization releases final report with 97 bipartisan recommendations to help fix Congress

Americans looking for signs that their elected representatives can actually represent them and be responsive to their needs should be pleased to learn about the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress’ final report, which was issued last week and contained 97 bipartisan recommendations that were adopted unanimously. 

This report is the culmination of two years of work by the Select Committee on Modernization — which is headed by Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Tom Graves (R-GA). To craft its recommendations to fix dysfunction in the U.S. House of Representatives, the committee held 17 hearings and six virtual discussions.

Improving our first branch of government is central to Issue One’s mission to fix our broken political system. Americans deserve a functioning Congress — by that we mean a representative body that has the capacity to be reflective of and responsive to an increasingly complex and diverse nation. Along with dozens of organizations from across the political spectrum, Issue One has worked to create and then support the Select Committee on Modernization — a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Congress to look inwards and reform itself so it can better serve the American people.

Here are some of the most important of the proposed reforms, some of which have already been adopted by the House and others which Issue One continues to urge House leadership to embrace to help make Congress a more functional, accessible, transparent, representative, and technologically adept institution:

Re: Improving committee work, bipartisanship, and Congress’ ability to fulfill its Article One responsibilities: 

  • Establish bipartisan committee staff briefings and agenda-setting retreats to encourage better policy-making and collaboration among Members.
  • Incentivize committees to experiment with alternative hearing formats to encourage more bipartisan participation.
  • Establish specific committee-only meeting times when Congress is in session.
  • Require House committees to hire bipartisan staff approved by both the Chair and Ranking Member to promote strong institutional knowledge, evidence-based policy-making, and a less partisan oversight agenda.
  • Create a common committee calendar portal to help with scheduling and reduce conflicts.
  • Reform the congressional calendar to ensure there are more work days spent working than traveling.

Re: Staff retention and diversity:

  • Create a one-stop shop Human Resources hub for Member, committee, and leadership staff.
  • Establish a nonbinding, voluntary pay band system for House staff that includes a salary floor and average salary for each position in Member offices.
  • Revaluate the funding formula and increase the funds allocated to each Member office.
  • Expand access to health insurance for congressional staff.
  • Provide more financial stability for congressional staff enrolled in the federal student loan program.
  • Make permanent the Office of Diversity and Inclusion — a measure adopted by the House earlier this year

Re: The continuity of operations:

  • Require each office to establish continuity of operations plans, including minimum safety requirements and emergency communications plans, which would be made available to all staff so offices continue functioning for the public during crises.
  • Ensure that staff have the most up-to-date technology and equipment to continue effectively working on behalf of constituents in the event of a disruption or emergency.
  • Create a bipartisan, bicameral task force to identify lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and recommend improvements to existing continuity of Congress plans.