Select Committee Tasked With Helping Congress Function Better to Continue

December 21, 2020 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – A select, bipartisan committee tasked during the 116th Congress with finding ways to make the body more effective, efficient and transparent, got a new lease on life Monday, ensuring its work will last at least two more years.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced not only will the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress continue its work, but it will do so under the continued leadership of Chairman Derek Kilmer, D-Wash.

“As speaker of the house, it is a privilege to once again appoint Congressman Derek Kilmer as chairman of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress where he will continue his respected, effective work for the people,” Pelosi said in a written statement. 

“Chairman Kilmer is a leader and innovator, whose integrity and vision have guided the Select Committee in its efforts to advance bipartisan solutions to make the House more transparent, efficient and responsive to the needs of our communities,” she continued.

“Strengthened by the historic diversity and dynamism of the 117th Congress, Chairman Kilmer and members of the Select Committee will continue to champion the best ideas that ensure that the people’s House can carry on its vital work now and for years to come,” Pelosi said.

Created at the beginning of the 116th Congress with almost unanimous support, the Select Committee nevertheless faced significant headwinds in its early going.

Not only did it come into being following a change in control of the House, in ordinary times a period of heightened partisan tensions, but its work coincided with the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history and the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

Despite this, under the bipartisan leadership of Kilmer and retiring Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., the committee produced results — 97 recommendations in all —  touching on everything from how Congress can discharge its constitutional duties more effectively, to how members can hang on to valued staff, how Congress can make better use of technology, and how it can be more transparent with the public.

In March, the House passed H. Res. 756, the Select Committee’s resolution to implement nearly 30 of these recommendations. In total, the House has implemented 38 of the Select Committee’s recommendations, including the most recent during new member orientation to allow for a paid transition staffer.

In October, the Select Committee released its final report for the 116th Congress, which detailed all 97 recommendations and the committee’s research, conversations with experts, staff and members throughout its two year lifespan. The full report can be read here.

Prior to Pelosi’s announcement, several good-government groups called for the Select Committee to be given the chance to continue its work. These included the Congressional Institute, the Bipartisan Policy Center, Protect Democracy and the Congressional Management Foundation.

“Despite the various factors arrayed against the Select Committee, it produced results,” said Mark Strand and Timothy Lang, president and research director, respectively, of the Congressional Institute. 

“The Select Committee deserves special recognition for being the first congressional reform committee to see any of its recommendations adopted while the committee was still meeting,” they added.

Michele Stockwell, senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, said the committee and its members “have rightly earned accolades, and their work could not be more important in a time when faith in government institutions is low.” 

“We should trust the committee and its members’ judgment that there are significant areas which still require attention, allow them to continue their work, and extend the committee with robust resources in the 117th Congress,” she said.

Brad Fitch, president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation agreed.

“In our four decades of working with Congress, the CMF has rarely seen a group of legislators work so closely together to astutely assess a public policy need, analyze the implications, and chart a course that benefits both the institution and the constituents it serves,” he said.

Kilmer on Monday attributed the Select Committee’s success to “bipartisan collaboration and a commitment to reform.”

He went on to say that while he’s proud the panel produced nearly 100 recommendations to make Congress work better for the American people, “our work is only getting started.”

“I’m grateful for the speaker’s support and the extension of the Select Committee through the 117th Congress. Together, Democrats and Republicans can continue to work together and make government function better for the folks we serve,” Kilmer said.

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