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It might be impossible to make lawmakers be nice to each other, but a House panel focused on improving Congress is trying anyway.
The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress is set to approve a handful of recommendations to boost bipartisan relations. They include offering new members classes and sessions at orientation on civility and collaboration, creating a bipartisan work space for staffers, offering technology to assist members collaborate on bills, and arranging for more bipartisan lawmaker events to promote and strengthen relationships.
Rep. William Timmons (R-S.C.), the vice chair of the committee, said in an interview that members need more opportunities to be together in nonconfrontational spaces and to build relationships outside committee work and floor votes.
“All of those will hopefully help to turn the tide,” Timmons said of the additional events. “The current level of bipartisan relationships is at the lowest point possibly ever.”
In a nod to the multiple ways they hope to bridge the partisan gap, Chair Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) said: “There are no silver bullets, it’s more like silver buckshot.”
Those are a few of the 26 recommendations that will be voted on today by the modernization panel. Others focus on updating aspects of agencies that support the work of lawmakers, including the Congressional Budget Office, the Congressional Research Service, and the Government Accountability Office.
The panel, which is authorized through the end of next year, also suggested creating two additional commissions: one to encourage better use of data when crafting legislation, and a task force to discuss a joint rules change in each chamber to ensure widely supported, bipartisan legislation passed in one chamber gets expedited consideration in the other.
The panel doesn’t have the power to approve legislation, meaning other committees and agencies will ultimately be responsible for taking action.
Let’s Be Civil
Civility has been on short supply on Capitol Hill over the past year, sometimes even within the two parties. Recently, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) called fellow Republican freshman Rep. Nancy Mace (S.C.) “trash” on Twitter, which Mace responded to by tweeting three emojis: a bat, a pile of poop, and a clown face.
Another confrontation happened after Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) likened Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) to a terrorist and a suicide bomber. A subsequent call between the two women was ended by Omar who said Boebert refused to apologize to her and “doubled down on her rhetoric.” After the call, Boebert said in a video posted on Twitter that she called on Omar to apologize for “anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-police rhetoric.”
Timmons said he doesn’t expect the proposals to have an immediate effect on the simmering tension. But he hopes the recommendations will lay the groundwork so future leaders of the chamber have a better working relationship.
“We’re not going to fix Congress tomorrow,” he said. “But start with orientation and creating additional opportunities. You will see turnover, and things will change.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org