BPC Fellow Don Wolfensberger: Six Elements that Make a Congressional Reform Effort Successful in Government Reform

As BPC Fellow Donald Wolfensberger, a former long-time House Rules Committee staffer and congressional scholar, prepares to testify before the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress at tomorrow’s hearing, here is an overview of what makes a successful congressional reform effort based on past examples. Although most past efforts have been in response to a crisis, Wolfensberger has concluded that the following six factors have enabled success:

1. A perceived need for reform that will improve the functioning of Congress and enhance the legislative experience of individual members and both parties.
2. A commitment among the reform committee to avoid partisanship.
3. Private, informal meetings and briefings among members to build trust and bipartisan relationships. 
4. Recommendations and views from members outside the effort to solicit more ideas for solutions and ensure broader buy-in once recommendations are produced.
5. Full support from members of leadership on both sides of the aisle.
6. Flexibility and willingness to compromise on unanticipated obstacles after recommendations have been reported.

To avoid the quick fixes of the past that have not led to substantive change, the committee should focus on a select set of priorities, and Congress must commit to applying the recommendations to ensure a better legislative process.

Click here to read Wolfensberger’s full testimony. Click here to follow Congress That Works, BPC Action’s grassroots advocacy initiative dedicated to spotlighting the committee’s work.