WASHINGTON — Congress has changed dramatically over the last half century, from a culture of legislating to a culture of campaigning, according to a new report prepared for the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Wilson Center by Donald Wolfensberger, who is a scholar at each organization. The report finds that this culture is not conducive to bipartisan compromise or serious problem solving and contains suggestions for changes the new Congress could implement to effect a returned focus to legislating.

The report is drawn from a series of discussions on “How to Fix Congress” that began at the Bipartisan Policy Center in 2011 and continued as the “Culture of Congress Roundtable Discussion Series” in collaboration with the Wilson Center. The programs drew on the expertise and interest of current and former members of Congress, senators, senior Hill staff, congressional scholars and concerned citizens.

Highlighted Proposals for Positive Change:

  • Leaders should commit to five-day workweeks, with three weeks on and one week off.
  • Congress should adopt biennial budget resolutions and spin-off the discretionary spending and debt ceilings in the resolutions into a bill for enactment.
  • Leadership should commit to fully restoring the authorization process to committees.
  • Committee chairs should commit to full minority party participation in markups.
  • Appropriations committees should refrain from authorizing in appropriations bills.
  • A more open amendment process on the floor of each house should be allowed by limiting restrictive amendment rules in the House and avoiding “filling the amendment tree” in the Senate.
  • Motions to proceed to consideration of legislation or nominations, and motions relating to going to conference in the Senate, should not be subject to filibuster.
  • Leaders should commit to restoring the use of House-Senate conference committees.
  • Leadership PACs should be abolished.
  • Members should be encouraged to deliver annual State of the Congress addresses to constituents to better educate the public about the workings of the institution.


The Wilson Center provides a strictly nonpartisan space for the worlds of policymaking and scholarship to interact. By conducting relevant and timely research and promoting dialogue from all perspectives, it works to address the critical current and emerging challenges confronting the United States and the world.

About the Bipartisan Policy Center
Founded in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is a non-profit organization that drives principled solutions through rigorous analysis, reasoned negotiation, and respectful dialogue. With projects in multiple issue areas, BPC combines politically-balanced policymaking with strong, proactive advocacy and outreach.  For more information, please visit our website: www.bipartisanpolicy.org.