How much lower can Congress’ reputation sink before some sense of urgency—fueled by self-preservation or simply self-respect—convinces leaders that “something” has to change?

The comparative yawn that greeted the last government shutdown reveals how shockingly little the public now expects from Congress. The recent Edelman Trust Barometer found that trust in major institutions fell more sharply in the United States than in any of the other 28 countries surveyed. The share of Americans expressing faith in their government fell 14 points in the past year, to an alarming 33 percent.


Is this how the 535 members of Congress want to spend their careers and be remembered?


It doesn’t have to be this way. Congress has the power to restore public confidence and self-dignity simply by doing its basic duties: examining the nation’s needs and problems and legislating reasonable responses. To succeed, Congress must have the courage to restore some of the tools that any institution needs to work effectively and solve problems.


The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform has studied these issues and proposed commonsense reforms. While skeptics may claim some of these are politically difficult, they should consider the “political difficulty” of continued dysfunction. Ultimately, there is one, and only one, way for Congress to regain public trust and support: Get Things Done.

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To govern a divided country, Democrats and Republicans need to know each other.

The Bipartisan Policy Center is inviting members of Congress to journey together on the American Congressional Exchange, an original approach to building better relationships and bipartisanship in Congress, away from the crucible of Washington, D.C.

The question is, how can we get to a place where members of Congress are focused on working together based on a common set of facts, shared respect for one another, and an understanding of where the other person is coming from?

The Bipartisan Policy Center has introduced the American Congressional Exchange (ACE), to enable members of Congress to spend a weekend together learning about each other’s districts and leading discussions on shared interests. Members are paired by choosing districts that are signifi cantly different geographically, culturally, and politically. ACE is chaired by the co-chairs of BPC’s Commission on Political Reform: former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and Trent Lott, former Agriculture Secretary and Representative Dan Glickman, and former Senator Olympia Snowe.

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The Bipartisan Policy Center joined the Center for Outcomes Research and Education (CORE) to speak with more than 90 national thought-leaders and stakeholders about the current state of rural health care in the Upper Midwest region, including Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. These discussions were used to determine the real-world implications of existing federal policies, to understand ongoing care challenges, and to identify opportunities for improvement in rural health care access and delivery.

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Most Americans agree that children need support to thrive, particularly in the crucial first few years of life. However, despite broad consensus on the importance of this time in a child’s life, we continue to debate how to best support parents so they can provide caring and enriching environments for their children. The debate can be healthy but it needs to lead to concrete action. We believe there are several short-term and longer-term steps we can take, in a bipartisan fashion, to improve early childhood care and education in this country.

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Our nation and Congress are challenged by a complex array of competing interests, ideologies, and demands. While the nation is divided, it is not ungovernable. The Bipartisan Policy Center works to support and highlight productive partisans who demonstrate that it is not necessary to compromise principle to achieve bipartisan progress.


BPC established the Legislative Achievement Award to acknowledge creative and courageous members who are breathing life into the legislative process. The award is given to new members who demonstrate the skill, grace, and tenacity to get things done for their constituents and the nation.

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Former Sen. Bob Dole received a standing ovation in the Capitol Rotunda as he was honored by President Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and members of Congress with the Congressional Gold Medal.

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Dialogue is the quarterly magazine of the Bipartisan Policy Center.
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ISSN: 2473-800X (print) 
ISSN: 2473-8018 (online).