Congress

Kilmer named to chair House modernization panel

modern services (Denizce/Shutterstock.com) 

Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) will chair a new committee of the House of Representatives focused on modernizing the institution of Congress.

The Select Committee on Modernization of Congress, called for in the rules package passed the week in the House, will hold hearings and develop recommendations on how to modernize the operations of Congress, from technology to human resources to the way lawmakers communicate with their constituents.

"Kilmer is an innovator and a pioneer, who has worked relentlessly to make the House more transparent and more responsive to the voices of Members and the American People," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement announcing the appointment.

The idea of a congressional modernization committee has been floated by tech-focused policy think tanks in the past, and there's much that Congress can do.

A September 2018 report issued by Daniel Schuman, policy director for Demand Progress, details a litany of potential reforms that Congress could implement, from standing up a digital service to overhauling constituent communications technologies to creating a new nonpartisan transparency ombudsman position to improve the public's access to and understanding of Congress.

Modernizing constituent communications is considered a particularly urgent problem. According to the Pew Research Center, the average House member in 2018 represented 747,000 individuals, higher than any other industrialized democracy on the planet.

"They're representing a lot more people, those people have much lower barriers to communicating with their representative and meanwhile we've seen support staffing and capacity in the institution overall decline significantly as this communications uptick has happened," said Zach Graves, head of policy at the Lincoln Network who pitched a similar idea for a select committee on technology modernization in Congress.

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a former senior staff writer at FCW.

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