Select Committee’s unique bipartisanship gets results
It’s important to note the unique bipartisan nature of the committee, formed in the 116th Congress to help address congressional capacity, partisanship and other facets of House life that were becoming unworkable. Chairman Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) and former Vice Chair John Thomas Graves Jr. (R-Ga.) set the tone early in the establishment of the committee: the two parties shared staff; membership was divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans; and all strove for unanimity in the recommendations. This tone has continued into the 117th Congress, now with Vice Chair William Timmons (R-S.C.) sharing the dais.
While the rest of Congress squabbles over masks, the SCOMC has continued to work diligently, guided by their commitment to civility, consensus and purpose. The results of this distinctive approach to policy-making speak for themselves.
In addition to some recommendations that Congress adopted last year, such as making the Office of Diversity and Inclusion permanent and permitting electronic submission of committee reports to the House Clerk, the work of the Select Committee continues to form the basis of key reforms in the House. The Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Legislative Branch Appropriations bill just passed by the House included an increase in the Members Representational Allowance (MRA), a key SCOMC priority that should boost office staff pay, professionalism and retention. The bill also included a much-needed funding bump for the Government Accountability Office, which should likewise help ensure Congress has access to key oversight resources. Bringing this legislative branch funding better in line with the growing needs of Member offices and congressional support organizations should improve congressional capacity. Similarly, funding in the FY22 legislative branch bill for paid interns will help achieve the Select Committee’s goal to increase staff diversity.
Today, the Committee passed its first set of recommendations for the 117th Congress. These 20 provisions fall into three broad categories: improving and retaining a diverse pool of knowledgeable congressional staff; professionalizing internships and fellowships; and improving accessibility in and around the Capitol complex, as well as online. These recommendations are a win for constituents who deserve not only ease of access to Congress’ halls of power, but also representation by well-equipped individuals that reflect the vibrant makeup of the country.
The work of the Select Committee to strengthen and sustain the First Branch of government is an essential part of the urgent need to restore Congress’ Power of the Purse. And the Committee is racking up wins without the rancor that infects other corners of Congress. Members and voters should pay closer attention to the achievements that are possible when people adhere to the Select Committee’s model of mutual respect and consensus building.
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