03 Mar RESTORE TRUST IN GOVERNMENT
The institutions we rely upon to reconcile our political differences are failing. Despite a number of recent achievements, our government appears overmatched by the major problems we face. From the lack of jobs, to a broken immigration system, to skyrocketing health care costs and failing schools, many Americans doubt the basic competence of government to make a positive difference in their lives.
While badly frayed, the good news is that our system is not broken. With a shared commitment to making government work again, our political leaders can take immediate steps toward restoring trust in American democracy. BPC remains confident: if the will is there, solutions are waiting. Our optimism is grounded in years of success—working with political leaders and experts from a wide range of professional and ideological backgrounds and perspectives—in finding smart, pragmatic, and implementable ideas for tackling our nation’s most important challenges.
Taking up these ideas, while also repairing the basic mechanisms of cooperation and consultation that allow our main branches of government to function effectively together, must be a key goal of President Trump and the 115th Congress.
Policy Priority: Create a Fair Legislative Process
Vigorous discussion, debate, and even dissent are the lifeblood of government by the people. A fair legislative process provides the mechanism for translating democracy’s interplay of views and interests into policy decisions that are viewed as legitimate by all sides. This means bills must be thoroughly vetted, not passed at the last minute or through procedural shortcuts that preclude thoughtful deliberation and full participation. This requires all members of Congress to improve working relations internally and make good faith efforts to reduce current levels of vitriol and distrust—both across the aisle and between the Senate and House of Representatives.
- Make committee votes public by setting up easily accessible databases that make votes and attendance records available. It shouldn’t be a struggle to find out which members attend hearings and how members voted on bills in committee.
- Create more room to consider amendments by House leadership, allowing more broadly open rules so more amendments can be debated; and Senate leadership, permitting more floor amendments and showing more restraint on using the filibuster.
- Adopt healthy work practices for Congress by requiring members to spend more time working in Washington to allow working relationships to develop and sufficient time to fully debate legislation. BPC has developed a tool, the Healthy Congress Index, that is designed to help citizens evaluate whether Congress is taking basic steps toward greater functionality.
Policy Priority: Tap America’s Talent for the Executive Branch
The president should not only assemble a cabinet that reflects the ideological and cultural diversity of America, but also enlist individuals throughout the government who are highly qualified and have a demonstrated capacity to get things done. The same principle should apply in the congressional vetting and confirmation process. This requires improving the appointment process at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
- Require fewer appointees to go through Senate confirmation.
- Streamline disclosure forms and vetting processes to reduce barriers to service for the most skilled and talented individuals.
- Make the ability to lead a large bureaucracy or to assemble an effective management team a central criterion in the selection and confirmation of appointees. The federal government is often viewed as ineffectual and inefficient, in part because federal agencies often aren’t managed very well. Whatever the major priorities of President Trump and Congress, competent management throughout the executive branch is going to be key.
Policy Priority: Improve Relations Between Congress and the White House
- President Trump and Vice President Pence should meet on a regular basis with congressional leaders from both parties to build a working relationship and identify key elements of a shared policy agenda.