To-Do List Still Long for Panel to Make Congress More Effective

  • 33 of its 97 recommendations at least partially implemented
  • More proposals expected to be approved by the end of 2021

A bipartisan panel is hurrying to implement dozens of its recommendations on improving the functioning of Congress before the end of next year.

Some two-thirds of the 97 recommendations the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress approved and announced last year still aren’t in effect, according to a report the committee released Thursday. Of those, about half are in the process of being put into effect and half are awaiting some kind of initial action, depending on the item.

The panel approved 20 new recommendations in July and expects to approve another batch before the end of the year, said Chairman Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), which adds to the list of what’s left to finalize.

“We’re going to keep sprinting to try to get as much implemented as possible,” Kilmer said. “Our goal is to not just make recommendations but get everything implemented.”

There are various ways the House must implement these recommendations. Some have to be added to legislation, voted on in both chambers, and signed into law. Others need to pass only the House. Some can be implemented through rules mandated by congressional leaders or agencies.

Photo by Tom Brenner/Bloomberg
A committee to modernize Congress is still working to get many more of its nearly 100 recommendations implemented.

The select committee was established in January 2019, after Democrats took control of the House, with the goal of making Congress more effective and transparent. If it isn’t renewed for another term in 2023, Kilmer said he and others will continue to work toward seeing their bipartisan recommendations come to fruition.

The proposals that staff are still deciding how to implement include:

  • Having a biennial budget resolution;
  • Expanding access to health insurance for congressional staff;
  • Updating social media rules for members of Congress;
  • Mandating cyber security training for members; and
  • Ensuring that more days Congress is in D.C. are spent working than traveling.

Other proposals are in the process of being implemented, such as raising the cap on the number of staffers in members’ offices and making it easier to see who is lobbying Congress and on what issues.

For all the committee has left to accomplish, Kilmer said that the group consisting of six Democrats and six Republicans has done a lot. That includes fully implementing 20 recommendations and partially implementing 13 others.

Among them was the August announcement by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that member and staff pay would no longer be linked. That allowed staffers to be paid more than members and is part of a staff retention effort.

There is also a human resources center for staff and members, and a permanent Office of Diversity and Inclusion, among other new initiatives.

Read More: House Boosts Maximum Pay for Hill Staff Above Lawmaker Salaries

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at ewilkins@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bloombergindustry.com

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