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Can members of Congress get along? One House committee wants to find out

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 9/25/2021 Kate Scanlon
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In an increasingly polarized Congress, can adopting corporate strategies to improve company culture help lawmakers bridge partisan or ideological divides? One committee wants to find out.

The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress was established in 2019 with the stated goal of developing recommendations to make Congress “more effective, efficient, and transparent on behalf of the American people,” according to its website.

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Rep. Derek Kilmer, chairman of the select committee, said at a Thursday hearing, “It’s one thing to acknowledge conflict in the workplace is unpleasant, but it’s quite another to really dig into that unpleasantness, to ask why it exists, and what we can do to address it.”

“None of us want to shoulder the blame for Congress’ low approval ratings, but every member bears responsibility,” the Washington Democrat said, adding, “Institutions are a reflection of the people who work for them.”

Rep. William Timmons, vice chairman of the select committee, said Congress has spent years without making progress on issues that affect the public, such as immigration or healthcare, and “we really have to figure this out.”

The South Carolina Republican said Congress has “a lot of conflict entrepreneurs.”

“The loudest voices are heard and rewarded often,” Timmons said. “And the people working to solve the problems, it’s just a tough run.”

Timmons added that Congress should “find a way to incentivize collaborative, fact-based policymaking.”

“We have to find a way to facilitate an exchange of ideas from a position of mutual respect,” he said.

At Thursday’s hearing, the lawmakers conducted an informal session with corporate culture experts and a political scientist studying collaboration, asking the witnesses how they could apply corporate strategies to lawmaking. In their remarks, Kilmer and Timmons pointed to how lawmakers at the hearing sat interspersed with members of the other party.

One of the witnesses, Alison Craig, an assistant professor at the University of Texas in Austin, said that when she tells people she studies collaboration in Congress, they often ask, “How can you study something that doesn’t exist?”

Craig said that bills introduced in the House that are the result of bipartisan collaboration are statistically more likely to be enacted, but members often assume they won’t be able to find someone in the other party to work with.

Some of the ideas that came up during the hearing from witnesses and lawmakers included dedicated dinners between pairs of lawmakers from opposite parties, allowing more than one member to sponsor a bill, directing committee leaders to prioritize bipartisan bills, establishing co-working spaces for congressional staff to facilitate networking. Another suggestion was to allow the creation of discharge petitions with a lower threshold to be brought to the floor for a vote if they could garner an equal number of signatures from Republicans and Democrats.

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Craig said, “Collaboration breeds collaboration.”

“One of the things I find pretty consistently is members who start to collaborate, collaborate more,” she said.

 

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Tags: News, Congress, Bipartisanship, Republican, Democrat

Original Author: Kate Scanlon

Original Location: Can members of Congress get along? One House committee wants to find out

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