Philosopher John Rawls famously proposed a thought experiment for designing a just society. He suggested deciding which rules we would put in place if we had no idea the conditions into which we would be born. This “veil of ignorance,” he suggested, would prompt us to make rules that would be most fair to all, regardless of economic or physical conditions.
Over the past two decades, almost every farewell address on the Senate floor has lamented the decline of the institution — a loss of civility, a concentration of power in leadership, the inability for the minority to offer amendments or have their bills considered. In the past month, retiring Sen. Udall [R, NM] urged colleagues to end the legislative filibuster (to save the institution); while retiring Sen. …
(This originally appeared on the depreciated POPVOX blog back on May 23, 2011. It was shared so much, we decided to dust it off and republish in honor of the incoming Freshmen. Welcome!)
The most popular POPVOX blog posts that people (read: Congressional staffers) seem to keep coming back to are those in the Hill 101 category. …
On October 7, former Rep. Katie Hill [D, CA] announced that The Handmaid’s Tale star, Elisabeth Moss, will play Hill in a movie based on her book, “She Will Rise: Becoming a Warrior in the Battle for True Equality.”
Soon after, the official Twitter account of the former congresswoman tweeted a long thread attributed to former staffers with allegations of staff abuse and pointed criticism of Hill.
The former congresswoman then tweeted from her personal/former campaign account that the official account had been “hacked” and had been in the control of the Office of the Clerk. (That’s not likely.)
by: Marci Harris and Ananda Bhatia
A version of this article first appeared in The Fulcrum
Remote work is changing Congressional internships and that’s not all bad news. Remote internships are expanding opportunity and scaling the traditional gulf between DC and the district, though they can be tough for offices — and interns — to navigate. Several organizations are stepping up to provide resources and support to ensure that offices are able to continue their internship programs in these exceptional times.
In a recent webinar on managing successful remote internships in the era of Covid-19, hosted by College to Congress, Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) and the Modernization Staff Association, speakers shared new data on the prevalence of remote internships — and a few surprising benefits. CMF’s Bradley Sinkaus noted remote work is eliminating the traditional wall between DC offices and their district counterparts. According to CMF’s research, remote work has “leveled the playing field” and helped make interns and full time staff in the district feel more connected to the policy work occurring in DC. …
Technology makes it possible for policymakers to access better data, better analysis and to hear from a broad swath of individuals, stakeholders and experts — if they choose to do so. The challenge for lawmakers is how to do so in an efficient, balanced way that does not further stall the already gridlocked lawmaking process.
As change fueled by technology impacts every aspect of society, Congress lags in its ability to understand emerging issues, propose ways to address them, weigh potential options, establish metrics for success, and evaluate the impacts of policies as they are implemented. Addressing this “pacing problem” will require lawmakers to do a better job of receiving and processing relevant information from a broad array of sources. …
The chaos surrounding Congress’s switch to remote work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare weaknesses of Congress’s technical procedures and infrastructure, from its inability to hold hearings by video or to conduct remote voting, to the absence of policies and appropriate technology to enable staff to work from home. As is often the case, necessity has proven to be the mother of invention — the COVID-19 pandemic required Congress to experiment with new technology and procedures, accelerating innovation, toppling past obstacles, and, ultimately, jump-starting modernization efforts.
Congress has long suffered from archaic technical infrastructure and processes. In January 2019, the House took a significant step towards identifying and addressing these issues with the establishment of a bipartisan Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, with a mandate to “investigate, study, make findings, hold public hearings, and develop recommendations on modernizing Congress,” including on “technology and innovation.” The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates why the work of the Select Committee is necessary and how much work remains in the efforts to modernize the House (and Senate). …
Congress is not an easy place for innovation. Success is rarely recognized. Going first is rarely rewarded. Failure is rarely forgiven. One person’s embarrassing moment is another’s campaign ad.
That’s why I have joined several “friends of Congress” — Congressman Brian Baird, Beth Simone Noveck, Daniel Schuman, and lorelei kelly –– over the past few weeks to help “de-risk” new approaches to remote legislative work. We have been studying what other legislatures are doing and holding “mock” hearings (on March 23 and April 16) to kick the proverbial tires.
Lately we are seeing considerable progress within Congress, as several committees begin to experiment with virtual or hybrid proceedings. Several of the staffers who managed these first ventures in remote experiments have begun to share their experiences… and there is a lot to learn! What follows is a fly-on-the-wall overview of the lessons learned from the House Natural Resources Committee (majority), the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee, Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Select Committee on Investigations, House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, and the Senate Banking Committee. …
On April 16, former members of Congress participated in a “Mock Remote Hearing” exercise to test the viability of online proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic (following an earlier proceeding on March 23).
The event was co-chaired by Former Rep. Brian Baird [D, WA] and Former Rep. Bob Inglis [R, SC] and co-hosted by: AEI, The Brookings Institution, Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation, Georgetown University, Bipartisan Policy Center, Congressional Management Foundation, Demand Progress, The GovLab at New York University, Lincoln Network, and POPVOX.
Key quotes and links:
On March 24, 2020, a mock remote hearing and markup was held via Zoom “to assess the viability of remote hearings in emergency situations when committees cannot physically convene.”
I co-organized this event with lorelei kelly of the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown and Daniel Schuman of Demand Progress. We were very fortunate to have former Rep. Bob Inglis [R, SC] and the former House Parliamentarian, Charles W. Johnson III as participants. The role-playing hearing and markup session was expertly“chaired” by former Rep. Brian Baird [D, WA]. …
March 12, 2020
As you work to respond to the coronavirus threat on Capitol Hill, we urge you to consider the following:
Prioritize the health and safety of the public, staff, press, and lawmakers: We recognize that there are contradictory pressures to project calm while also modeling appropriate responses, such as the “social distancing” recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. In this vein, we encourage Congress to adopt a “putting on your own mask before assisting others” approach, to take rational steps to limit exposure on the Capitol Campus and within district offices. …