Congressional Institute President Mark Strand testified before the U.S. House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. Strand encouraged committee members to look at substantive legislative reforms that will make Congress effective. You can view his full written testimony here. Watch the committee hearing here.
Here are Strand’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Good morning. Thank for inviting me to testify today. And congratulations to the new Members here – you’ve joined a committee that is a model for how others can operate.
In the last session of Congress, this committee passed 97 bipartisan recommendations. You showed your colleagues how to work civilly and productively. But now the hard work really begins.
Legislatively speaking, Congress is broken. More often than not, the real work of putting together important bills isn’t done in committee – it’s done in the Speaker’s office. Just a few key Members have input. And for the most part, Members have shifted from lawmakers to mass communicators.
The key to fixing Congress – to improving relationships and restoring civility is to increase opportunities for all Members to legislate.
Here are some key recommendations from my written testimony:
One. Stop proxy voting. Members of Congress don’t need more excuses to spend less time in Washington. How can you form relationships with your colleagues if you don’t see them?
Two. Limit closed rules. Allow Members to offer amendments. No one is guaranteed to win an amendment, but you should have the chance to participate in the legislative process and advocate for your constituents.
Three. Strengthen committees to do the hard work of putting together bills in, yes, long and challenging mark-ups. That’s where the hard work of legislating should be done.
Four. Restore authorizations and individual appropriations bills.
Five. Institute biennial budgeting. This common-sense reform that removes the federal budget from campaign cycles and hopefully eliminates the threat of government shutdowns.
The Congressional Institute has, for sometime, advocated for bringing back earmarks to incentivize Members to work together and participate in the legislative process. We applaud the decision to reinstitute them.
The work this committee did in the last session of Congress was exemplary. You’ve shown that you can come together on important reforms that will help Capitol Hill run better. I encourage you to think big on legislative reforms – even if Congress doesn’t pass your recommendations right away, you can still lay the groundwork for future Congresses to take up your reform mantle.
Thank you for your time.