Restoring Congress as the first branch

In late 2014, the R Street Institute launched the Governance Project. Its task is large: to assess and improve the state of America’s system of national self-governance, with particular attention to Congress.

Why focus on Congress? Quite simply, because most of these governance problems flow from our national legislature’s actions and inactions. The U.S. Constitution made Congress the bedrock of our government. Article I declares “[a]ll legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.” These include fundamental powers of governance, such as establishing currency and fixing its value, regulating economic activity among the states and with other nations, declaring war, taxing the public and spending those funds. Our national charter also empowers Congress to conduct oversight to ensure our tax dollars are well-spent and our laws “faithfully executed” by the president and the bureaucracy. Hence, to remedy the ills of our federal government necessitates improving Congress.

The R Street Institute’s Governance Project takes an institutional approach to the problem of governance. It focuses on what Congress does, why it does it and how its workings may be improved. To date, the governance project has published studies and essays on Congress and its role in regulatory policy, the Senate and its amendment process, congressional budgeting and various oversight issues (such as executive branch overreach.)

This white paper collects essays on congressional governance by incisive thinkers from across the political spectrum. The essays address some of the national legislature’s afflictions and identify potential cures. The first footnote for each piece offers a link to the longer online pieces from which these short pieces are derived. The perspectives vary, but collectively, they underscore the need to right our constitutional system and restore Congress as the first branch

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