What if Congress was measured by it’s productivity — the way most businesses in our country are? Using tools to do just that, our own Next Generation founding board member and Master Class leader, former senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), says there is progress in breaking the legislative logjam on Capitol Hill. The co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform, Sen. Snowe tells the Washington Post that data from the Center’s new “Healthy Congress Index” — which measures Congress’s productivity quarterly — indicate “there are some early signs of revival in Congress, although we’re not quite ready to remove the patient from ICU just yet.”
The Index — which takes into account such tangible things as days spent in Washington, floor debates and bills reported out of committee — reveals that the Senate and the House are literally working more, with both chambers clocking more days in session on Capitol Hill in the first three months of this Congress than in the previous two sessions.
Sen. Snowe and her co-chairs — two other former senators, who served as majority leaders, a former Clinton cabinet secretary and a former governor — worked a year and a half on a 120-page report explaining why U.S. politics is so polarized and Congress is so gridlocked. They came up with a host of wide-ranging recommendations to make it better. The Center’s new Index is an outcome of their report.
According to Sen. Snowe, “Too few days in session leaves too little time for the kind of negotiating and intra-party dialogue that is essential to the legislative process.”
When their report was issued last year, the Post noted that she and former senators Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), former governor/interior secretary/senator Dirk Kempthorne (R-Idaho) and former agriculture secretary/congressman Dan Glickman (D-Kan.) “remember another time in Washington, when politicians hung out socially and spouses became friendly and kids went to school together and the country’s work got done.
“Blaming the abbreviated legislative work week and the mad dash back to their districts every weekend,” wrote the Post, “the former pols say it’s impossible for current members to work together because they’re not forming personal bonds or establishing trust.”
“Members do not eat together, their families do not interact, and consequently they do not get to know each other well. Under these circumstances, it is hard to imagine how members of opposing parties can find the time to make real overtures to each other on issues of shared interest,” the group wrote.
There’s a lot of self congratulating going around Capitol Hill these days — members of Congress are, in not-so-insignificant ways, doing their jobs. The Bipartisan Policy Center has some evidence that there’s reason for optimism. Read more at: washingtonpost.com