The 2021 appropriations process is ramping up with markups scheduled over next month and just a few months left before the end of the fiscal year. Appropriations bills can be a vehicle for institutional reform; we would like to elevate a few modernization ideas from a number of civil society organizations that lawmakers may wish to consider. (All of our recommendations are available online.)
1. Cultivate a more representative workforce by lowering financial barriers — College to Congress
Establish an HR office in the House, provide permanent funds to pay interns, and raise the cap on the student loan repayment program for House employees; these changes would make working for Congress feasible for a wider swath of people.
2. Support employees so they can do their jobs well — Issue One
Stronger staff training and onboarding, a more effective human resources hub, and further management training for more seasoned employees all contribute to better legislating.
3. Provide Members of Congress staff who hold sufficient clearances — Project On Government Oversight & Demand Progress
Personal office staffers in the House and Senate are not permitted to hold TS/SCI clearances, which means members lose the benefit of a staffer who works for them that can attend briefings, review classified documents, and provide wise counsel.
4. Rebuild Congressional Science & Technology Expertise — Lincoln Network and the Belfer Center
Restoring GAO’s budget (closer) to its former capacity would ensure the Science & Tech (STAA) team has the resources it needs to do its job. There’s also the option to restore the Office of Technology Assessment.
5. Create a Legislative Branch Information Technology Coordination Office — Demand Progress
The Legislative Branch could be making better use of information technology in the legislative process; improvements require the left hand to know what the right hand is doing. Our proposed solution is a singular office that monitors how information is managed and shared throughout the Legislative Branch.
6. Track the reports due to Congress and hold non-compliant actors accountable — Demand Progress
How many reports has Congress required of federal agencies? When are they due? Who was required to submit the report? No one knows. We propose increasing accountability by funding the House Clerk to expand tracking of congressionally-mandated reports.
7. Empower GAO to hold the Executive Branch accountable — Lincoln Network and National Security Counselors
8. Publish comprehensive Capitol Police arrest information as data — Demand Progress
Capitol Police shares little information with the public about department activities; the information they do publish is in PDF format, and can’t be analyzed in a meaningful way. Expanding the scope of information included in arrest summaries, and publishing that information as data would facilitate oversight.
9. Expand CRS Report Access — R Street Institute
Historical reports are not available to the public; the Library should share historic reports from the CRSX Archive. The reports that CRS does publish are posted as PDFs; HTML or a mobile friendly format would be better.
10. Make CBO cost estimates available before markups — National Taxpayers Union
Currently almost 90% of the office’s estimates come out after a bill has been reported out of committee.