Select Committee Endorses Strategies for Improving Civility on Capitol Hill

December 10, 2021 by Dan McCue
Select Committee Endorses Strategies for Improving Civility on Capitol Hill
Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., chairman of the Select Committee for the Modernization of Congress.

WASHINGTON — A Select Committee formed to help make Congress function more efficiently and get up to speed with the 21st Century has endorsed its second set of recommendations for improving civility and fostering collaboration among members of Congress.

The release of the package this week comes after the panel – formally known as the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress – conducted several fact-finding hearings and heard from experts on everything from organizational effectiveness to evidence-based lawmaking.

The members also took part in a roundtable discussion in which they heard from experts in government reform regarding structural changes that could be made to foster a more collaborative environment on the Hill.

“Americans don’t expect members of Congress to agree on everything, nor do they expect members of Congress to all be best friends. But they do expect us to work together and show respect for one another as we work to represent our constituents,” said Chair Derek Kilmer, D-Wash. 


“The American people want less partisan bickering – and more progress,” Kilmer continued. “That desire guided our committee as we had months of hearing from experts in organizational effectiveness – many of whom have helped guide large and often dysfunctional organizations down a much more productive path.  

“Democrats and Republicans on the Modernization Committee have come up with a set of targeted interventions that we think will incentivize collaboration and facilitate a more productive process. We don’t expect this to change everything that ails Congress overnight — but as a committee, we believe these changes will release some of the pressure and help us better serve the American people,” he said.

A full list of the committee’s recommendations can be found here.

Among its key recommendations regarding civility are:


  • Promoting collaboration and leadership at member orientation: New member orientation should strive to promote civility, collaboration, and leadership skills and sessions should be held separately from and at times that do not conflict with party leadership events;
  • Promoting collaboration and civility through voluntary training opportunities: The proposed Congressional Leadership Academy and Congressional Staff Academy should offer voluntary training to members and staff to promote civility, leadership, and collaboration skills;
  • Bipartisan committee events: Committees should have flexibility to host occasional events to foster collaboration and further develop working relationships among committee members;
  • Ongoing institutional support to facilitate collaboration: The House should include within the portfolio of an institutional office responsibilities to provide best practices to members and staff seeking advice, support and workshops that encourage bipartisan collaboration in the House; and
  • Task force on the legislative process: A bicameral group of members, including majority and minority members of the House and Senate Rules Committees, should convene to discuss joint rules changes in each chamber that would require widely supported, bipartisan legislation passed in one chamber to receive expedited consideration in the other chamber.

Other recommendations were related to strengthening the role of Congressional support agencies. These include:

  • Bolstering legislative support agencies’ access to federal data and experts: CRS, GAO, and CBO should each report to committees of jurisdiction on access to federal data, including any challenges to accessing that data, and identify whether Congress can take any actions to ensure agencies have continuous and real-time access to high-quality federal data and the staff who maintain and can provide insight into that information;
  •  GAO annual report on unimplemented recommendations: The comptroller general of the GAO should provide an annual report to committees on unimplemented GAO recommendations and the estimated cost savings, by agency;
  • GAO report to congressional committees on legislative options:  GAO should provide an annual report of legislative options to Congress to address open priority recommendations, as well as related work from the “High Risk List”;
  • Modernize the congressional support agencies:  The committees of jurisdiction should examine the support agencies’ authorities and determine if they are sufficient or need to be updated so that the agencies can better serve an evolving Congress; and
  • Authorize STAA and make it a permanent part of GAO: The Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team should be authorized by Congress and made a permanent part of GAO.

A third category of recommendations focused on improving evidence-based policymaking. This includes:

  • Creating a congressional commission on evidence-based policymaking: Congress should establish a bipartisan, bicameral commission on evidence-based policymaking to encourage and facilitate better use of data in the legislative process.

“In order to tackle our nation’s largest problems, members of Congress and their staff need to be able to engage in substantive policy discussions from a position of mutual respect and with the best available date for evidence-based policymaking,” said Vice Chair William Timmons, R-S.C. 

“This committee is not attempting to dictate how members should represent their constituents; these recommendations are about trying to refocus Congress’s attention away from the bickering and on to solving America’s biggest challenges,” he continued. 

“If implemented, members will spend more time conducting oversight and ensuring government works efficiently, that our support agencies like the Congressional Budget Office help us better understand and tackle the nation’s debt, and that as a nation our laws will be based on facts and not opinions,” he said.

The Modernization Committee passed 20 recommendations in July, 2021 to strengthen staff capacity and to make Congress more accessible to the American people. Thursday’s vote brought the total number of recommendations advanced by the Committee up to 45 in the 117th Congress. 


The Modernization Committee released a report in October, 2021 detailing the full implementation of 33 recommendations and meaningful progress made on 30 additional recommendations. 

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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