Researcher and Writer in Washington, DC

A Case for Stronger Congressional Committees

House Committee on Financial Services. Source: Wikipedia.

House Committee on Financial Services. Source: Wikipedia.

With congressional partisanship at record highs and congressional approval ratings at record lows, the First Branch should consider reform. Two recent white papers (one analyzing the House, the other the Senate) cast light on the nature of the problem. Together they suggest that much power has shifted to the chambers’ leaders, and the legislature has shifted from a “transformative legislature,” which generates and develops legislation, towards an “arena,” which functions to display political clashes or position-taking on externally generated legislation.

Congressional staff and policy wonks have an obvious interest in these papers, because they most immediately bear the burden of the implications.

So too do the rest of us. Once we understand how the nature of Congress has shifted, we can understand why it does what it does, and see a way forward. And, ironically, that way appears to be by going backward—moving away from a hierarchical, leadership-dominated model of operating the chambers to one which disperses more power to committees…. (Read more at

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