The House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (SCOMC) closed out the first session of the 117th Congress strong, advancing a second set of congressional reform recommendations. This tranche of recommendations is aimed at enhancing policymaking by incentivizing more cross-partisan collaboration and improving access to reliable information. Some of the recommendations in this round are more “smart suggestions” than institutional game-changers, like urging the Library of Congress and House Committees to prioritize trainings or events that promote better working relationships between members of Congress. But other recommendations address some long-standing issues, such as legislative support agency access to federal data.
In his response to questions for the record following a January 2020 hearing on the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) annual “Budget and Economic Outlook” report, CBO Director Phillip Swagel explained, “The accuracy of CBO’s estimates depends in part on receiving information from agencies in a timely manner.” When that doesn’t happen, sometimes due to changes in data collection by executive agencies or lengthy negotiations to get access to data, the CBO relies on dated or partial information to form estimates which in turn can impact major decisions around legislation costs and effects.
Two other key recommendations call for annual reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on legislative options to resolve open GAO recommendations as well as the potential cost savings. Along with the CBO’s “Options for Reducing the Deficit” report, this information would present a treasure trove of legislative opportunities and ideas, not to mention pay-fors. Like many of the SCOMC’s other recommendations, it is incumbent on the requisite congressional committees or other responsible parties to take these ideas up in a timely manner. A concerted effort to follow through on these recommendations could improve not only the legislative process, but also policy outcomes.