Often, proposals to increase Congress’s capacity to oversee the executive branch fall victim to partisanship, with members of the president’s party being reluctant to support reforms that limit his power. Importantly, however, several of these recent proposals have already received demonstrated bipartisan support; in 2019, three Republicans (Sens. Lindsey Graham, Pat Toomey and David Perdue) supported an amendment offered in the Senate Budget Committee by Van Hollen containing provisions similar to the recent House-passed language on withholding near the end of the fiscal year and on apportionment transparency.
Effectively rebalancing power between Congress and the executive branch is not an easy task; the current distribution of authority is due, in part, to conscious choices by Congress to delegate responsibilities to the president. Building the capacity and expertise within the legislative branch to more effectively oversee the executive requires spending that legislators perceive to be politically unpopular. As even the debate over whether members of Congress and their staffs should have access to regular COVID-19 testing has shown, the House and the Senate are often reluctant to make investments in themselves because they do not want to be seen as having “gone Washington.” But these reforms have the potential to improve Congress’s ability to oversee the executive branch without requiring the kind of politically contentious votes that others do.