WASHINGTON (Aug. 17, 2016) – In addition to being viewed negatively by a record number of Americans, Congress increasingly is shifting from a body that generates and develops its own legislation to one that functions to display political clashes or position-taking on externally generated legislation, argues a new R Street policy study co-written by Policy Analyst Adam Chan and Governance Project Director Kevin R. Kosar.

With 65 percent of Americans calling the current Congress the worst in their lifetime, a decreasing rate of passed legislation in recent decades and a historically large partisan divide, Congress’ current state threatens to cede lawmaking power to other branches.

“Because the United States lacks a British-style government that exists external to Congress and drafts most legislation, if Congress fails to generate laws, the governance system falls out of balance; presidents and executive-branch agencies increasingly will legislate on their own,” the authors write.

Among the fixes that could restore Congress to its rightful place include selecting committee chairmen strictly on the basis of seniority; expanding the overall number of committees and subcommittees; and more regularly calling votes on bills reported by committees.

The authors conclude: “In sum, a Congress of 535 individual operators clearly does not work well. Nor does a legislature that is directed by a few top leaders. The incentives of individual legislatures can be channeled toward the first branch’s collective good through the medium of committees and their subcommittees.”

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