More Reason for Optimism in the New Year: Bipartisan Congressional Modernization

More Reason for Optimism in the New Year: Bipartisan Congressional Modernization


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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The other day we found some reason for optimism for our seemingly hopelessly divided nation in the unlikely campaign friendship of Democratic presidential rivals Andrew Yang and Cory Booker.

Today, we can find a little more in an obscure, but very bipartisan-spirited, effort to modernize the institution of Congress.

The initiative is led in rare true bipartisan fashion, almost in “buddy cop” form, by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) and Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.). Kilmer chairs, and Graves vice chairs, the very unsexy Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

Although their original mandate was nebulous — “develop recommendations on modernizing Congress” — over the last year, Kilmer and Graves have offered 45 unanimous recommendations to the full House. Those suggestions range from some basic cost-cutting by allowing for more bulk purchases instead of each office buying supplies to recommending more technical training for members and their staff.

A particularly bipartisan suggestion has been to have a bipartisan retreat for all House members and their families at the start of each new Congress, a very different situation than the current annual partisan retreats held outside Washington.

But, perhaps more importantly than any specifics, has been the overall civil, bipartisan and collaborative tone Kilmer, Graves and the other committee members have set.

“Their collaborative approach is as genuine as it is encouraging,” wrote the leaders of the Association of Former Members of Congress.

Rather than end the select committee at the close of this year, it was decided to extend it another year.

Not only can we wait to see what more it recommends, we can hope that it’s continued bipartisan and collegial spirit rubs off on the rest of the institution.

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