Fortunately, the work of increasing Congress’s capacity has been moving forward over the past five years, but slowly and in fits. The impetus began with the various individuals and groups that have participated in the Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group and who are part of the broader good government ecosystem. Philanthropic support, I should add, has been essential to this undertaking.
Two years ago, pressure from legislators got Democrats in the House to agree to the establishment of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (SCMC). Some upgrades have been enacted, but many of the to-do’s on the SCMC’s list remain. And there are multiple aspects of Congress’s capacity that were not part of the SCMC’s mandate. Decades of neglect mean an immense amount of work remains to be done.
The U.S. Constitution gives our national legislature the authority to organize itself as it sees fit and to fund itself as much as it pleases. Both Senators and Members of the House of Representatives need to recognize and embrace this truth, and act upon it.
Without a well-functioning national legislature, America cannot be a well-functioning republic. And if that motive is too high to impel action, then legislators should consider that they can improve their own standing in the public’s eye by admitting Congress has a capacity problem and doing something about it.