Congressional Institute

Congressional Institute The Congressional Institute is dedicated to helping Members of Congress better serve their constituents and helping constituents understand Congress
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Founded in 1987, the Congressional Institute is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to helping Members of Congress better serve their constituents and helping their constituents better understand the operations of the national legislature. The Institute sponsors major conferences for the benefit of Members of the U.S. Congress as well as a number of smaller gatherings, all devoted to an examination of important policy issues and strategic planning. The Institute also conducts important research projects consistent with its mission, develops resources such as a House Floor Procedures Manual and sponsors Oxford-style bipartisan Congressional debates.

Students this year are struggling as they watch academic milestones like proms, final exams, field trips, and graduation...
06/04/2020

Students this year are struggling as they watch academic milestones like proms, final exams, field trips, and graduation ceremonies transitioned to virtual platforms. But thankfully, the 2020 #CongressionalArtCompetition will be remembered for the ingenuity and innovation that Members’ offices showed in celebrating the artistic achievements of high school students. Learn more about how the House has adapted the Congressional Art Competition to the age of #COVID-19. https://bit.ly/2U7aZe6

05/25/2020
House Democrats are moving ahead with a change to the rules that would allow proxy voting. The change would allow them t...
05/14/2020
The Quorum, the Constitutional Convention, and the Coronavirus: Some Questions

House Democrats are moving ahead with a change to the rules that would allow proxy voting. The change would allow them to do business with only a minority of the Members present, even though the Constitution requires a majority. This is a momentous change for the House and seems to go against what the Framers of the Constitution intended. https://bit.ly/2zDoZF2

The coronavirus pandemic has led some to call on Congress to continue its operations while Members are dispersed throughout the country. H.Res. 965 authorizes the Speaker to allow Members to vote by proxy when the Sergeant-at-Arms notifies her that there is a public health emergency due to the coron...

The House Democrats have been mulling a change to how the House votes and counts a quorum during the coronavirus pandemi...
05/12/2020
Voting Present by Proxy is an Unconstitutional Oxymoron

The House Democrats have been mulling a change to how the House votes and counts a quorum during the coronavirus pandemic. One proxy voting proposal would allow them to count as "present" Representatives who aren't actually in the Chamber. This runs counter to the Constitution and the 200-plus year history of the House. Congress is, by definition, the gathering of people together to solve issues. This cannot – and should not – be done remotely. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3ftmhC8

The Constitution leaves a great deal of leeway to the House and Senate for establishing their own rules of procedure. But one provision is absolutely clear: In both chambers, a quorum is required to do business. And a quorum is defined as a majority of its members. Article 1, section 5, of the U.S.....

The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once said Congress is “the 900-pound gorilla in Washington” and that it co...
05/05/2020
If It Can Get Its Act Together: A Case for Strengthening Congress

The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once said Congress is “the 900-pound gorilla in Washington” and that it could “do anything…if it can ever get its act together.” Congress too often does nothing about important issues and lets the Presidents take the lead. That needs to change—here’s why: https://bit.ly/2xEESdp

Source: Christine Sponchia, Pixabay I knew very well that the 900-pound gorilla in Washington is not the presidency. It’s Congress. If Congress can get its act together, it can roll over the president. That’s what the framers thought…Power tends to corrupt. But the power in Washington resides ...

The Congressional Art Competition is a beloved, annual tradition in which high school students in nearly every one of th...
04/17/2020

The Congressional Art Competition is a beloved, annual tradition in which high school students in nearly every one of the 435 congressional districts exhibits their artwork. In a shockingly short amount of time, COVID-19 has upended so much of our daily lives. But the Congressional Art Competition continues! Learn more: https://bit.ly/3eyTA6G

Like so many across the country, congressional offices have switched to teleworking to combat the spread of the #coronav...
03/23/2020
How to Manage a Congressional Office Remotely During a Crisis

Like so many across the country, congressional offices have switched to teleworking to combat the spread of the #coronavirus. To help guide the Hill community during these challenging times, the Congressional Management Foundation will hold a webinar on how to manage a congressional office remotely during a crisis. It starts at noon EDT on Thursday, March 26. Congressional staff can register here: http://congressfoundation.org/calendar/event/499

Congress just made a massive change to how it functions: moving to remote operations. This change was rapid and unexpected.

03/12/2020

More congressional staffers focus on communications work and fewer are devoted to policy, according to "Modernizing Congressional Communications," our newest study. That comes as the average congressional office has 2 fewer staffers than 10 years ago. Though more staffers are engaged in communications, they report they report that they are struggling to respond effectively--and some of the challenges are imposed by the House itself.

There is hope, however. The House recently rolled out a number of reforms to how Members can communicate. Our new study, conducted by Echelon Insights, builds on that accomplishment by offering other ideas for improvements: http://bit.ly/2xx6wZL

"Because in a democracy like ours, the key challenge is to foster a debate that respects all voices, even those of disse...
02/27/2020
Without Civility, Our System Doesn’t Work | Lee H. Hamilton | Bainbridge Island Review

"Because in a democracy like ours, the key challenge is to foster a debate that respects all voices, even those of dissent and protest, and create an environment that enables the agreements we need to advance the common good. The future and the effectiveness of our representative democracy require that we get the balance between civility and dissent right."

Check out former Rep. Lee Hamilton's recent column on why democracy fails without #civility: https://www.bainbridgereview.com/opinion/without-civility-our-system-doesnt-work-lee-h-hamilton/

Rep. Hamilton, who chaired a 1993 committee to reform Congress, once talked with us about the pitfalls of fixing the Legislative Branch. Read about his unique perspectives: http://bit.ly/2M037po

When he was just a young teenage schoolboy, George Washington sat down and copied out 110 “Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior.”

Representing diverse views, debating ideas, and coming to consensus on policy is what Congress is all about. But Congres...
02/13/2020
Modernization Committee Holds Hearing on How to Improve Debate and Deliberation in Congress

Representing diverse views, debating ideas, and coming to consensus on policy is what Congress is all about. But Congress hasn’t been doing that too well in recent years. The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress discussed how to improve deliberation in the House. Learn how: http://bit.ly/38h7tmm

The Russian actor Boris Marshalov has been quoted as observing, “Congress is so strange. A man gets up to speak and says nothing. Nobody listens—and then everybody disagrees.” Some would argue that this just as true today as it was in the first half of the 20th century when Marshalov said it.....

02/05/2020
Committee Hearing: Article One: Fostering a More Deliberative Process in Congress

Congress needs strong and lively debates, but the quality of debate has declined a lot over the years. For instance, did you know that House leaders routinely restrict Representatives from offering amendments on the Floor? The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress will hold a hearing on how to revive debate at 2:00 pm today. Watch it live: https://youtu.be/D2LDjdiEc7E

For more on how Congress can improve debate visit: http://bit.ly/29YgGoZ

The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress will hold a hearing titled “Article One: Fostering a More Deliberative Process in Congress” on Wednesda...

President Trump is set to deliver the 2020 State of the Union address at 9:00 p.m. ET/8:00  p.m. CT tonight. The State o...
02/04/2020

President Trump is set to deliver the 2020 State of the Union address at 9:00 p.m. ET/8:00 p.m. CT tonight. The State of the Union has evolved a ton over the years to become the grand event it is today. Learn more about the origins of the speech and why it is so important: http://bit.ly/2RpDKhy

You can also watch the speech live-streamed tonight on C-SPAN: https://www.c-span.org/video/?468549-1/2020-state-union-address

(Photo: Shealah Craighead, The White House)

Few things in Congress are as entertaining as a good, sharp spat between legislators. Few things are as disruptive to th...
02/04/2020
How the House Promotes Civility on the Floor: Taking a Look at Taking Words Down

Few things in Congress are as entertaining as a good, sharp spat between legislators. Few things are as disruptive to the legislative process too. Here's how the House gets things back on track when incivility breaks out on the Floor: http://bit.ly/38VjrBT

The lies roll off their tongues so easily. They can say the most outlandish things with such ease, you would swear that it was Mephistopheles himself that was up there speaking.[i] You are one of the most impolite Members I have ever seen in my service in this House.[ii] They always say “gentleman...

“The Framers created Congress as the first among co-equal branches of government. Article I establishes the Legislative ...
01/17/2020
Modernization Committee Holds Hearing on How to Strengthen Congress, Hold Executive Branch Accountable

“The Framers created Congress as the first among co-equal branches of government. Article I establishes the Legislative Branch and enumerates Congress’ constitutional powers. But Congress’ capacity to uphold these powers has weakened.”

The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress recently held a hearing on how to rein in the Executive Branch, which has grown a ton in size and power over the last century. Learn about how Congress can assert its own power as representatives of the people: http://bit.ly/2u6uHMA

Members of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress held their first hearing of 2020 on Tuesday, January 14. The topic was how Congress could reclaim power it has lost to the Executive Branch. Members engaged in a lengthy and lively discussion of issues like congressional capacity and t...

CSPAN used to be boring because it carried solid debates; now it looks like old episodes of The Jerry Springer Show. But...
01/04/2020
Civility In Washington Is Possible

CSPAN used to be boring because it carried solid debates; now it looks like old episodes of The Jerry Springer Show. But the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress is showing that civility IS possible: https://www.congressionalinstitute.org/2020/01/03/civility-in-washington-is-possible/

The idea of civility in Congress right now seems anathema to daily business. C-Span used to be boring because it carried solid debates; now it looks like old episodes of The Jerry Springer Show. But, as Rep. Tom Graves, has said, there is “a bright spot … a little place of refuge for folks to…

01/02/2020

2020 will be a big year for the House of Representatives. Last year, the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress showed its members could actually work across partisan lines to recommend ways Congress could work more effectively for all Americans. It earned the respect of House leaders and rank-and-file, so it was extended through the rest of the 116th Congress to continue its quiet, yet meaningful work.

Congressional Institute president Mark Strand recently spoke with The Washington Times about why the Select Committee’s work is so important. https://www.congressionalinstitute.org/2020/01/02/quiet-work-meaningful-solutions/

Every so often, Congress finds itself having to complete a spending bill or two before leaving Washington for Christmas ...
12/24/2019

Every so often, Congress finds itself having to complete a spending bill or two before leaving Washington for Christmas and New Years. At the same time, some spending bills can have so many different amendments attached that they are like the various ornaments hanging upon a Christmas tree, so they have earned the moniker “Christmas tree bills”. In the spirit of good cheer, we’ve come up with a Christmas song celebrating this species of legislation. We’re hoping it becomes Congress’ favorite Christmas song. http://bit.ly/2sPki7k

Congress is often paralyzed and can’t resolve major issues facing the country. Americans agree this can’t continue. In a...
12/09/2019
Divided we fall? Americans see our angry political debate as 'a big problem'

Congress is often paralyzed and can’t resolve major issues facing the country. Americans agree this can’t continue. In a new USA TODAY poll, 83% said that “divisiveness and gridlock in politics are a big problem.” The poll is a must-read for anyone concerned about political reform and civil discourse in the country: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/hiddencommonground/2019/12/05/hidden-common-ground-americans-divided-politics-seek-civility/4282301002/?for-guid=C978F1FB-02AD-491F-80F5-18CB2B365D37&utm_source=usatoday-Daily%20Briefing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=baseline&utm_term=hero

Americans are united on this: They're sick and tired of being so divided. A USA TODAY/Public Agenda project looks for 'Hidden Common Ground.'

Think the only thing happening in Congress is impeachment? Wrong! There’s one shining example of bipartisanship – the U....
12/03/2019
What’s That? A Rare Spot of Bipartisanship in Congress!

Think the only thing happening in Congress is impeachment? Wrong! There’s one shining example of bipartisanship – the U.S. House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. Congressional Institute President Mark Strand wrote about the committee in The Fulcrum, praising the panel for its hard work this year and commending the House for extending the committee’s work through next year. http://bit.ly/34K6xVA

Think the only thing happening in Congress is impeachment? Wrong! There’s one shining example of bipartisanship – the U.S. House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. Congressional Institute President Mark Strand wrote about the committee in The Fulcrum, praising the panel for its h...

Fund the government, avoid a shutdown, pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, lower prescription drug prices. Thes...
11/13/2019
The Christian Science Monitor

Fund the government, avoid a shutdown, pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, lower prescription drug prices. These are just a few things many Members of Congress want to do. But will the House's impeachment inquiry derail progress on meaningful legislation for the rest of the year? Congressional Institute president Mark Strand spoke with The Christian Science Monitor about the legislative outlook.

Congress is struggling to agree on spending, trade, and other priorities. Impasses might have existed without impeachment – but it’s not helping.

In a healthy democracy, legislators and their constituents need to communicate with each other effectively. But the Hous...
11/07/2019
Modernization Committee Asks How to Bring House Communications into 21st Century

In a healthy democracy, legislators and their constituents need to communicate with each other effectively. But the House's rules on how Members can reach out to their constituents are way outdated. The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress recently asked how the House can modernize its communications rules. Learn more about how the House can get with the digital age: http://bit.ly/2WGsou0

https://youtu.be/TkpgOF5Uqtc The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress marked Halloween by holding its 12th hearing, “Congress and the Frank: Bringing Congressional Mailing Standards into the 21st Century.” Sound boring? On a typical day, it might have been, but in a nod to the holid...

Have you heard about the "demon cat" that's supposed to wander the halls of Congress at night? Or about the voice of Joh...
10/31/2019

Have you heard about the "demon cat" that's supposed to wander the halls of Congress at night? Or about the voice of John Quincy Adams that some say you can still hear in the Speaker's Lobby?

In honor of #Halloween, read about these and other spooky stories from the United States Capitol: https://www.aoc.gov/blog/haunted-halls-congress-5-creepy-capitol-legends

Ever receive a piece of mail from your Member of Congress with their signature on it, rather than a stamp? That's one ex...
10/31/2019
Busting Congressional Myths

Ever receive a piece of mail from your Member of Congress with their signature on it, rather than a stamp? That's one example of franking, a congressional privilege to help Members of Congress communicate with their constituents. Franking is older than Congress itself, and the House has got to update its rules for the digital age. Thankfully, the @ModernizeCmte will be talking about how the House can do just that at 9:30 am on Thursday.

There are some myths about franking out there. To get the facts, check out: http://bit.ly/2R3akHf

And to watch the hearing, visit: https://youtu.be/TkpgOF5Uqtc

Abraham Lincoln once said you can’t believe everything you read on the internet – at least there is a meme floating around to that effect. While quick access to a world of information is one of the miracles of our age, it comes along with the quick dissemination of falsehood and rumors as well. ...

Over 1/3 of Americans say the top problem facing the country is the government and politicians, Gallup reported recently...
10/29/2019
Gallup

Over 1/3 of Americans say the top problem facing the country is the government and politicians, Gallup reported recently. In other words, Congress has a lot to do to win the public's trust.

Let us know how you think Congress can improve. Check out these ideas on reform, too: http://bit.ly/36bKIPX

Near-record-high 34% say government/leadership is top problem in U.S., up 11 points since September. http://on.gallup.com/2W1KHJQ

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland will lie in state in Statuary Hall on Thursday. He will be greatly missed by his collea...
10/24/2019
Perspective | Elijah Cummings and I were political opponents. We were also good friends.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland will lie in state in Statuary Hall on Thursday. He will be greatly missed by his colleagues who have been sharing beautiful memories and tributes to the late Maryland Congressman. Representative Trey Gowdy, who served alongside Rep. Cummings on the House Oversight Committee, posted a moving tribute about their friendship which transcended politics. Their friendship can teach us a lot about #civility. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/10/18/elijah-cummings-i-were-political-opponents-we-were-also-good-friends/

We always tried to understand why each of us believed what we believed.

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