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RECOMMENDATIONS TO ENCOURAGE CIVILITY AND BIPARTISANSHIP IN CONGRESS, STREAMLINE PROCESSES AND SAVE TAXPAYER DOLLARS, AND INCREASE THE QUALITY OF CONSTITUENT COMMUNICATION
[House Prints, 116th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]



                        [COMMITTEE PRINT]

116th Congress   }                                      {   C.P. 116-3
                      HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session     }                                      {   

_______________________________________________________________________

                                     

                           

 
 RECOMMENDATIONS TO ENCOURAGE CIVILITY AND BIPARTISANSHIP IN CONGRESS, 
   STREAMLINE PROCESSES AND SAVE TAXPAYER DOLLARS, AND INCREASE THE 
                  QUALITY OF CONSTITUENT COMMUNICATION

                               __________

                              R E P O R T

                               __________

                      THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE

                       MODERNIZATION OF CONGRESS

                     U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                               __________

[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]                                
                               

               December 19, 2019.--Ordered to be printed
               
               
               
                             ______
                          

               U.S. GOVERNMENT PUBLISHING OFFICE 
 38-772                   WASHINGTON : 2020
                
               
               
           SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE MODERNIZATION OF CONGRESS

                    DEREK KILMER, Washington, Chair
ZOE LOFGREN, California              TOM GRAVES, Georgia, Vice Chair
EMMANUEL CLEAVER, Missouri           ROBERT WOODALL, Georgia
SUZAN DelBENE, Washington            SUSAN W. BROOKS, Indiana
MARK POCAN, Wisconsin                RODNEY DAVIS, Illinois
MARY GAY SCANLON, Pennsylvania       DAN NEWHOUSE, Washington
                                     WILLIAM TIMMONS, South Carolina
                                 ------                                

                            Committee Staff

                      Allie Neill, Staff Director
                   Jake Olson, Deputy Staff Director
                   
                   
                   
                            C O N T E N T S

                              ----------                              

                           December 19, 2019

                                                                   Page
 I. PURPOSE AND SUMMARY...............................................1
II. BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR RECOMMENDATIONS...........................2
III.HEARINGS..........................................................4

IV. RECOMMENDATIONS...................................................6
 V. COMMITTEE CONSIDERATION AND VOTES.................................9
 
 






116th Congress  }                                           {   C.P. 116-3
                       HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 
 1st Session    }                                           {

======================================================================


 RECOMMENDATIONS TO ENCOURAGE CIVILITY AND BIPARTISANSHIP IN CONGRESS, 
   STREAMLINE PROCESSES AND SAVE TAXPAYER DOLLARS, AND INCREASE THE 
                  QUALITY OF CONSTITUENT COMMUNICATION

                                _______
                                

 December 19, 2019.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on 
            the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

Mr. Kilmer, from the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         I. PURPOSE AND SUMMARY

    The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress has 
been charged with the important responsibility of recommending 
improvements to the U.S. House of Representatives to help 
Members of Congress and their staff better serve the American 
people. On May 23, 2019 the Select Committee passed its first 
set of recommendations to open up Congress and improve 
transparency across the Legislative Branch. On July 25, 2019 
the Select Committee passed its second set of recommendations 
to address key challenges and capacity issues throughout the 
Legislative Branch, including: Updating Human Resources (HR) 
policies and consolidating the many HR-related offices in the 
House; overhauling the onboarding process for new Members and 
providing continuing education opportunities for all Members; 
emphasizing the necessity of civility and respect throughout 
Congress; modernizing House technology resources to keep the 
institution on the cutting edge and emphasizing quality IT 
services; and, addressing the equal access challenges persons 
with disabilities face when working for, visiting, or 
interacting with the House.
    Since then, the Select Committee has identified additional 
civility and administrative challenges in the House that affect 
the ability of Members and congressional staff to best serve 
the American people. To address these challenges, the Select 
Committee proposed its third set of recommendations which fit 
into three broad categories.
    The first set emphasize the necessity of civility and the 
importance of bipartisan collaboration in Congress. Select 
Committee Members believe that Congress is stronger when 
Members find ways to work together to solve problems and 
civility is key to making Congress a more productive 
institution that better serves the American people. This is 
especially important now and the Select Committee intends to 
continue pushing for improved civility through recommendations.
    The second set address various administrative 
inefficiencies in the Congress and update Member cosponsorship 
procedures, procurement and bulk purchasing policies, the 
travel card program, and Member emergency preparedness 
training.
    The third set modernize the House Commission on Mailing 
Standards, also known as the Franking Commission, regulations 
governing all Member communications. The Select Committee 
worked with the Franking Commission to develop these 
recommendations and will defer to the Commission on policy and 
implementation details.

              II. BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR RECOMMENDATIONS

    Efficiencies in House operations, regulations governing 
Members' ability to communicate with their constituencies, and 
efforts to improve bipartisan collaboration among Members and 
staff have required congressional attention and action for some 
time. Committee attention to problems within these three areas 
of focus will help Members and staff better serve the American 
people.
    The Select Committee identified the following issues to be 
addressed with recommendations to improve civility and 
operations in Congress:
    1. The U.S. Capitol complex currently lacks sufficient 
spaces where all Members can gather to collaborate or even to 
socialize privately. Members have identified a need for private 
spaces, close to the House floor and open to Members from both 
parties. Unlike the Democratic and Republican cloak rooms, a 
dedicated bipartisan space would encourage collaboration and 
socialization across party lines.
    2. Members currently lack opportunities to interact with 
and get to know their colleagues across the aisle. Aside from 
congressional delegation (CODEL) trips, Members have few 
opportunities to interact across party lines, away from 
Washington, D.C., with their families. This lack of interaction 
across party lines discourages Members from getting to know all 
of their colleagues and from working collaboratively and 
building bipartisan coalitions. Bipartisan, biennial retreats 
at the beginning of each new Congress would encourage Members 
to make connections with their colleagues, find common ground, 
and help build civility into the House's process.
    3. Personal office staff are currently prevented from 
participating in committee organized congressional delegation 
(CODEL) travel, even when this travel is directly connected to 
their professional responsibilities. This practice prevents 
personal staff from having sustained opportunities to interact 
with their colleagues across the aisle, away from Washington, 
D.C. Allowing personal office staff to participate in CODELs 
would encourage bipartisan connections and collaboration at the 
staff level.
    4. Many House committees have become increasingly partisan 
in their organizational and procedural activities. An inability 
to work across party lines prevents committees from being as 
productive as they otherwise might be. Regular bipartisan 
briefings and training for committee staff, as well as 
bipartisan committee retreats, would encourage collaboration 
between parties and promote productivity. Committees should 
establish ways for Members and staff to cooperate on 
establishing committee policy and oversight agendas.
    5. Often, Members will add their name as a ``cosponsor'' to 
legislation they support that was introduced by a colleague. 
However, Members are sometimes erroneously added as cosponsors 
to bills. When this happens, Members are required to go to the 
House floor and make a statement for the record. Once their 
names are removed, their ``stricken'' names still appear on the 
legislation. This cumbersome and inefficient process should be 
modernized to make it easier for Members to remove their names 
and to also remove any trace of their name from legislation 
they did not cosponsor so their constituents have a clearer 
understanding of what bills their Representatives support.
    6. Members are currently not required to undergo routine 
emergency preparedness training, which presents major safety 
and security concerns. Members have expressed a desire for 
training so that they know what steps to take in an emergency 
situation where no staff are present to provide them with 
information and guidance.
    7. The House and Senate currently purchase items like 
office supplies, subscriptions, and information technologies 
separately. By collaborating on bulk purchasing and 
procurement, the House and Senate could potentially save 
taxpayer money and spend more efficiently.
    8. The Select Committee previously recommended that ``the 
CAO should leverage the bulk purchasing power of the House and 
provide a standard suite of quality, up-to-date devices and 
software, such as desktop and laptop computers, tablets, 
printers, mobile phones and desk phones at no cost to the 
Members' Representational Allowance (MRA)'' (see Select 
Committee Report entitled ``Recommendations to Streamline House 
Human Resources, Overhaul the Onboarding Process, Improve 
Member Continuing Education Opportunities, Modernize House 
Technology, and Improve Accessibility,'' recommendation 19). 
Members have identified a need to expand the scope of this 
recommendation to include for additional House-wide purchases 
and services with the goal of saving taxpayer dollars. Members 
have also identified a need to develop and pilot baseline tech 
packages for new Member offices in order to take advantage of 
bulk purchasing rates and streamline the process of equipping 
Member offices with necessary technologies.
    9. The current House Travel Card Program is outdated and 
easily subjected to inaccuracies. The process of making travel-
related charges can often require junior staff to float 
expenses. Because reimbursement can be a long and cumbersome 
process, staff must often wait awhile for repayment. Members 
have also noted that covered expenses need to be updated to 
reflect modern modes of transportation such as rideshares.
    10. Members today use multiple platforms to communicate 
with their constituents. While the Franking Commission 
regulates postal mail, it does not have the explicit authority 
to regulate digital communications. This creates confusion for 
Members who are looking for a single source to provide guidance 
on their communications. The U.S. Code should be updated to 
consolidate all Member communications under the jurisdiction of 
the Franking Commission.
    11. The Franking Commission's official name, ``The House 
Commission on Mailing Standards,'' no longer accurately 
captures the Commission's range of responsibilities and should 
be updated to reflect all current forms of Member 
communications.
    12. Explaining the complexity of many issues before 
Congress often requires Members to communicate with their 
constituents multiple times. Current regulations require 
Members to get approval from the Franking Commission each time 
they communicate with constituents, even just to provide an 
update on an issue on which they have already communicated. 
Additionally, constituents are only allowed to subscribe to 
Members' e-mail communications and no other. Current 
regulations should be modernized to allow and encourage better 
and more interaction between Members and constituents, 
including giving constituents the ability to subscribe to other 
communications (for example, text messages, mail, etc.).
    13. The current tracking procedures for franked mail are 
cumbersome and outdated. District offices self-report the cost 
of franked mail, which may lead to inaccuracies. In order to 
increase accountability between Members and their constituents, 
the tracking system should be modernized, in consultation with 
the U.S. Postal Service, to make tracking easier and more 
reliable, and possibly offering Member offices the ability to 
use either their signature or a bar code for tracking.
    14. Members who wish to communicate with their constituents 
by mail or digitally are currently required to receive a 
Franking Staff Advisory Opinion. Given the speed of digital 
communications, receiving an opinion can take too long, 
potentially rendering the communication outdated. The approval 
process needs to be updated to better reflect modern forms of 
communications and improve Members' ability to quickly respond 
to those they represent.
    15. Many Members build large social media followerships 
during their campaigns for office. But once they are elected to 
office, they are required to establish separate, official 
social media accounts. This creates confusion for both Members 
and their followers on social media. Additionally, the rules 
and policies governing Members' official and campaign accounts 
differ greatly which can create unnecessary confusion. Members 
should be allowed a one-time transfer of followers from their 
campaign to their official social media accounts at the 
beginning of each Congress.
    16. For the public to view Franking Commission advisory 
opinions, current rules require individuals to make a trip to 
the Clerk's Office in Washington, D.C., provide identification, 
and pay for copies of materials sent by Members to their 
constituents. This creates a major inconvenience for anyone 
interested in viewing an opinion and presents major 
transparency and accountability challenges. The advisory 
opinion posting process needs to be modernized so that Members 
and the American people can view opinions in an online, easy to 
access form.

                             III. HEARINGS

    The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress held 
six hearings which helped shape these recommendations. The 
hearings included:
           ``Recommendations for Improving the Budget 
        and Appropriations Process: A Look at the Work of the 
        Joint Select Committee,'' on September 19, 2019. The 
        Select Committee received testimony from:
                   The Honorable Nita M. Lowey, 
                Member of Congress, Washington D.C.
                   The Honorable Steve Womack, 
                Member of Congress, Washington D.C.
                   Mr. G. William Hoagland, Senior 
                Vice President, Bipartisan Policy Center
                   Ms. Megan Lynch, Specialist on 
                Congress and the Legislative Process, 
                Congressional Research Service
                   Mr. M. Matthew Owens, 
                Participant, Convergence Building a Better 
                Budget Process Project, Executive VP and VP for 
                Federal Relations, Association of American 
                Universities
           ``Promoting Civility and Building a More 
        Collaborative Congress,'' on September 26, 2019. The 
        Select Committee received testimony from:
                   Dr. Keith Allred, Executive 
                Director, National Institute for Civil 
                Discourse
                   Mr. Jason Grumet, Founder and 
                President, Bipartisan Policy Center
                   The Honorable Ray LaHood, on 
                behalf of themselves
                   Dr. Jennifer N. Victor, on 
                behalf of themselves
           ``The House Calendar and Schedule: 
        Evaluating Practices and Challenges,'' on October 16, 
        2019. The Select Committee received testimony from:
                   Ms. Ida Brudnick, Specialist on 
                Congress, Congressional Research Service
                   Mr. Charles W. Johnson, on 
                behalf of themselves
                   Mr. Kyle Nevins, on behalf of 
                themselves
                   Ms. Susan Clarke Schaar, Clerk 
                of the Senate, Virginia General Assembly
           ``Congress and the Frank: Bringing 
        Congressional Mailing Standards into the 21st 
        Century,'' on October 31, 2019. The Select Committee 
        received testimony from:
                   The Honorable Rodney Davis, 
                Member of Congress, Washington D.C.
                   The Honorable Susan A. Davis, 
                Member of Congress, Washington D.C.
                   Mr. Josh Billigmeier, on behalf 
                of themselves
                   Dr. Matt Glassman, on behalf of 
                themselves
                   Dr. Joshua Tucker, on behalf of 
                themselves
           ``Administrative Efficiencies: Exploring 
        Options to Streamline Operations in the U.S. House of 
        Representatives,'' on November 15, 2019. The Select 
        Committee received testimony from:
                   Ms. Teresa Gerton, President and 
                CEO, National Academy of Public Administration
                   Dr. R. Eric Petersen, Specialist 
                in American National Government, Congressional 
                Research Service
                   Mr. Michael Ptasienski, 
                Inspector General, on behalf of The House of 
                Representatives
                   Mr. Drew Willison, Former Senate 
                Sergeant at Arms, on behalf of themselves
           ``Rules and Procedures in the U.S. House of 
        Representatives: A Look at Reform Efforts and State 
        Best Practices,'' on December 5, 2019. The Select 
        Committee received testimony from:
                   Mr. Christopher M. Davis, 
                Analyst on Congress and the Legislative 
                Process, Congressional Research Service
                   Dr. C. Lawrence Evans, on behalf 
                of themselves
                   Ms. Natalie Wood, Director, 
                Center for Legislative Strengthening, on behalf 
                of National Conference of State Legislatures

                          IV. RECOMMENDATIONS

    The Select Committee made the following 16 recommendations 
to address the problems identified (see II. BACKGROUND AND NEED 
FOR RECOMMENDATIONS) and have organized them into three 
categories. The Select Committee supports:

          Encouraging Civility and Bipartisanship in Congress

          (1) Recommendation: Create a bipartisan Members-only 
        space in the Capitol to encourage more collaboration 
        across party lines.
          Specifically . . . There are few private spaces where 
        Members can interact in a bipartisan way. The Architect 
        of the Capitol, under the direction of the Committee on 
        House Administration, will work to identify current 
        space in the Capitol with close proximity to the House 
        Floor that can be optimized for the purpose of Members 
        gathering and collaborating in private and across party 
        lines.
          (2) Recommendation: Institute biennial bipartisan 
        retreats for Members and their families at the start of 
        each Congress.
          Specifically . . . House Rules will be amended to 
        require the House to hold biennial retreats for all 
        Members at the beginning of each new Congress. The 
        retreats will be designed for Members and their 
        families to spend a few days offsite, at a location 
        within driving distance from Washington, D.C. The 
        retreats should draw from the best of the ``Hershey'' 
        model (previous retreats held in Hershey, PA) 
        originally led by Representatives LaHood and Skaggs 
        that occurred at the beginning of each new Congress 
        from 1997-2003. The retreat will be planned by a 
        bipartisan committee and funding source will be 
        determined by the Committee on House Administration.
          (3) Recommendation: Update committee policies to 
        increase bipartisan learning opportunities for staff.
          Specifically . . . Committee rules and policies 
        should allow appropriate personal office staff to 
        participate in committee organized congressional 
        delegation (CODEL) trips, should that travel be 
        directly relevant to their professional 
        responsibilities. CODELs provide structured, 
        professional opportunities for staff to have bipartisan 
        interactions while furthering their understanding of 
        issues relevant to their work.
          (4) Recommendation: Establish bipartisan committee 
        staff briefings and agenda-setting retreats to 
        encourage better policy making and collaboration among 
        Members.
          Specifically . . . Members have expressed concern 
        that committee work has become too partisan. The House 
        should dedicate an allotment of appropriated funds to 
        committees explicitly for the sole purpose of 
        establishing regular bipartisan staff briefings and 
        trainings and for holding biennial, bipartisan 
        committee retreats. Unused funding cannot be 
        reallocated for other purposes. This would encourage 
        committee members to work together to identify 
        guidelines and measures aimed at promoting productive 
        engagement across the aisle and to identify areas for 
        bipartisan policy cooperation.

           Streamlining Processes and Saving Taxpayer Dollars

          (5) Recommendation: Update House procedures to allow 
        members to electronically add or remove their name as a 
        bill cosponsor.
          Specifically . . . The Select Committee previously 
        recommended allowing secure e-signatures for bills (see 
        Select Committee Report entitled ``Recommendations to 
        Streamline House Human Resources, Overhaul the 
        Onboarding Process, Improve Member Continuing Education 
        Opportunities, Modernize House Technology, and Improve 
        Accessibility,'' recommendation 14). Members who wish 
        to remove their names from legislation that they were 
        erroneously added to as cosponsors are currently 
        required to go to the House floor and make a statement 
        to have their names removed. The House Clerk and the 
        Parliamentarian will identify a more efficient way for 
        Members who were added in error as a cosponsor of a 
        bill to remove themselves as cosponsors of legislation 
        without indicating their previous cosponsorship.
          (6) Recommendation: Require Members to undergo 
        emergency preparedness training to ensure our 
        government is fully prepared in the event of a crisis.
          Specifically . . . Members are not required to 
        undergo emergency preparedness training which presents 
        serious safety and security concerns. The House 
        Sergeant at Arms Office and the Capitol Police will 
        coordinate periodic emergency preparedness training for 
        Members.
          (7) Recommendation: Identify ways the House and 
        Senate can streamline purchases and save taxpayer 
        dollars.
          Specifically . . . A decentralized purchasing system 
        leads to higher prices for many goods and services that 
        both the House and the Senate use. The House CAO, the 
        Senate Rules Committee, and the Senate Sergeant at Arms 
        are directed to explore how the House and Senate can 
        collaborate on procurement and bulk purchasing to save 
        money for the American people.
          (8) Recommendation: Encourage House-wide bulk 
        purchasing of goods and services to cut back on waste 
        and inefficiency.
          Specifically . . . Fragmented and duplicative 
        contracts can cause inefficiencies and unnecessary 
        costs for offices. The House CAO will be empowered to 
        negotiate House-wide contracts or purchasing services 
        for Member, committee, and leadership offices with the 
        goal of saving taxpayer dollars by purchasing centrally 
        rather than independently. The CAO, under the 
        supervision of the Committee on House Administration, 
        will also determine what constitutes a good, baseline 
        technology package for Member, committee, and 
        leadership offices. The CAO may pilot a baseline tech 
        package with freshman offices, then expand the pilot to 
        other offices accordingly.
          (9) Recommendation: Update travel expenditure 
        policies to improve efficiencies, and boost 
        accountability and transparency.
          Specifically . . . The House Travel Card Program will 
        be expanded to achieve greater efficiencies in tracking 
        House expenditures or expediting employee 
        reimbursement. Reducing staff outlays for travel 
        expenditures may have benefits for more junior staff 
        who may find it more difficult to float travel expenses 
        from personal resources. The House Travel Card Program 
        should also be modernized to accommodate more current 
        forms of travel, such as rideshare services.

          Increasing the Quality of Constituent Communication

    The Select Committee will work with the Franking Commission 
on the details of how these recommendations will be further 
developed and implemented.
          (10) Recommendation: Consolidate the regulations 
        governing Member office communications, including 
        digital communications, into one easy to find place.
          Specifically . . . The U.S. Code, the Franking 
        Manual, and the Members' Congressional Handbook will be 
        updated as necessary to consolidate all Member 
        communications under the jurisdiction of the House 
        Commission on Mailing Standards to improve the way 
        Congress communicates with the American people.
          (11) Recommendation: Rename the House Commission on 
        Mailing Standards, also known as the Franking 
        Commission, the House Communications Standards 
        Commission to reflect 21st Century communications.
          Specifically . . . Update U.S. Code, the Franking 
        Manual, and the Members' Congressional Handbook as 
        necessary to reflect the Franking Commission's new 
        name.
          (12) Recommendation: Increase opportunities for 
        constituents to communicate with their Representatives.
          Specifically . . . Update U.S. Code and the Members' 
        Congressional Handbook as necessary to reflect changes 
        allowing constituents to subscribe to all forms of 
        communications with their Members.
          (13) Recommendation: Increase accountability and 
        tracking for all Member-sponsored mail.
          Specifically . . . The Franking Commission will work 
        with the U.S. Postal Service to develop modern 
        solutions to eliminate the need for self-reporting of 
        district office mail.
          (14) Recommendation: Allow for faster correspondence 
        between Representatives and their constituents.
          Specifically . . . Update U.S. Code, the Franking 
        Manual, and the Members' Congressional Handbook as 
        necessary to reflect revised requirements for when 
        Members need an advisory opinion from the Commission.
          (15) Recommendation: Update House social media rules 
        to allow for better communication online between newly-
        elected Members of Congress and their followers.
          Specifically . . . The Franking Commission will work 
        with the House Committee on Ethics to determine 
        guidelines for allowing Members to conduct a one-time 
        transfer of followers from campaign to official social 
        media accounts and develop clear procedures for how 
        these accounts can be used.
          (16) Recommendation: Allow the public to better 
        access and view the types of communication sent by 
        Members of Congress to their constituents.
          Specifically . . . Update Franking Manual as 
        necessary to require that advisory opinions are made 
        available online in an easily accessible public 
        database.

                  V. COMMITTEE CONSIDERATION AND VOTES


                             Consideration

    On December 19, 2019, the Select Committee held a Business 
Meeting, a quorum being present, and reported favorably the 
recommendations herein contained in this report.

                                 Votes

    In compliance with clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, there were no recorded votes 
taken on these recommendations. The recommendations herein 
contained in this report were adopted by voice vote, two-thirds 
being in the affirmative. A motion by Chair Derek Kilmer of 
Washington to report these recommendations to the House of 
Representatives was adopted by voice vote, two-thirds being in 
the affirmative.