Skip to content

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Reform in 2023: Congress actually had a pretty good 2022, and next year may be even better

US Capitol
Free Agents Limited/Getty Images

As 2022 draws to a close, The Fulcrum has invited leaders of democracy reform organizations to share their hopes and plans for the coming year. This is the second in the series.

Fitch is the president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation and a former congressional staffer.

It’s that time of year when one reflects on the joys and disappointments of the past year and looks to the hopes and plans for 2023. The Congressional Management Foundation is the only nonpartisan, nonprofit in the United States with 100 percent of its staff and resources dedicated to improving Congress and its interactions with constituents, so naturally our end-of-year analyses and wishes are focused on the legislative branch.

While it’s been hard to see, the House of Representatives has seen some remarkable achievements in the past few years, primarily through the work of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. I know most of the people will find this hard to believe, but the committee was one of the few groups in Congress I’ve witnessed in my years at CMF that functioned the way our Founding Fathers intended. During the four years of the committee’s existence this bipartisan group of lawmakers discussed, debated and adopted more than 200 recommendations to improve Congress and democracy – nearly all with unanimous support from both the Democrats and Republicans on the committee.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

It may sound mundane, but the committee’s recommendations, if fully implemented, would strengthen Congress’ ability to retain competent staff, enhance the resources to develop sound public policy, enable more efficient processes for the Congress to operate and improve Congress’ ability to listen to the American people. They will also restore some of the powers granted to Congress in Article I of the Constitution, including shifting some spending authority from the executive branch back to the legislative branch, as the country’s founders intended. Their recommendations will strengthen Congress, allow constituents to have a greater voice in government, and lead to better service to and representation of the American people.

In our four decades of working with Congress, CMF has rarely seen a group of legislators so astutely assess a public policy need, analyze the implications, and chart a course that benefits both the institution and the constituents it serves. This effort was aided by a remarkable coalition of about 40 organizations that rallied around the common purpose of enhancing Congress. When I started work at CMF two decades ago there were so few groups focused on Congress that we probably couldn’t put together a poker game. Well, now we’ve got a whole softball league filled with reformers! Groups and initiatives such as the Hewlett Foundation’s Democracy Program, the Democracy Fund, and the Bridge Alliance have become hubs of democratic ingenuity and support. [Bridge Alliance operates The Fulcrum.]

To continue to support this effort, this month CMF announced it was launching a new Congressional Revitalization and Modernization Project. The initiative aims to assist in the implementation of the committee’s recommendations in the House and support efforts to launch a similar initiative in the Senate. Part of this effort also will include CMF continuing to identify key benchmarks for improving Congress as an institution. In collaboration with the Partnership for Public Service, CMF published “The State of the Congress 2022,” which revealed bipartisan agreement that congressional functionality, civility, and capacity need to improve for Congress to best perform its role in democracy. This first annual report provides an assessment of congressional performance by the people who know the institution best: congressional staff. We created the Exemplary Congressional Staff Cohort composed of more than 100 of the best staff working in personal, committee, leadership and institutional offices throughout the Legislative Branch.

As we look to 2023, CMF will also continue its work with our academic partners to enhance trust in Congress through better constituent engagement. We will continue our partnership with the Institute for Democratic Engagement and Accountability at The Ohio State University to conduct novel online/telephone town hall meetings with members of Congress and constituents. Our goal will be to explore whether these modern and scalable settings can be used to bridge the divide in a highly partisan environment.

Finally, if I could foist a few New Year’s resolutions on key institutions, I would urge some important participants in our democracy to change a bit of their culture in ways that improve trust in our system of government. For the media, I would hope that the genuine bipartisan accomplishments that occur get greater attention. During this past Congress we saw bipartisan agreement on improving our national infrastructure, incentivizing the manufacturing of microchips in the United States, and supporting democracy in Ukraine in its war with Russia.

For Congress, it would be nice if it spent more time acknowledging the progress and success the institution has achieved, and less time unfairly beating itself up. I’m not taking a Pollyanna approach; I fully recognize that Congress needs to improve how it functions. But Coke doesn’t employ advertising slogans like, “Don’t drink Pepsi, it’ll rot your teeth.” Sure, Congress has its share of whack-a-doodles, scoundrels, and incompetents – just like any profession. Yet most of the Congress is composed of dedicated public servants striving tirelessly to improve the lives of their constituents and make the world a better place. Nearly all members of Congress genuinely believe this – it would be nice if in 2023 they articulated it a little more often.

Read More

Wegovy box
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

How Congress can quickly make Ozempic, Wegovy affordable

Pearl, the author of “ChatGPT, MD,” teaches at both the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is a former CEO of The Permanente Medical Group.

A whopping one in eight U.S. adults have taken GLP-1 drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic for weight loss and related conditions. Their popularity and efficacy have sparked a prescription-writing frenzy in recent years, leaving both medications on the Food and Drug Administration's drug shortage list since May 2023.

Keep ReadingShow less
Man climbing a set of exterior steps

The author, Miliyon Ethiopis, following a court’s decision to grant his asylum request on June 18.

U.S. immigration court ruling on statelessness could have wide impact

Ethiopis is a co-founder of United Stateless, a national organization led by stateless people.

I feel like I have been born again, after a U.S. immigration court made a remarkable ruling in my “statelessness” case in June. I hope that my case will have significant, broader implications for other stateless people in America.

Being stateless means no country will claim you as a citizen. We don't belong anywhere. Stateless people are military veterans. We are Harvard graduates. We are Holocaust survivors. There are millions of stateless people around the world, and 200,000 such people in the United States.

Keep ReadingShow less
Bar graph of shopping carts
Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

Have prices increased 40 percent to 50 percent since Trump left office?

This fact brief was originally published by Wisconsin Watch. Read the original here. Fact briefs are published by newsrooms in the Gigafact network, and republished by The Fulcrum. Visit Gigafact to learn more.

Have prices increased 40 percent to 50 percent since Trump left office?


Cumulative inflation since former President Donald Trump left office in January 2021 through May 2024 was 20.1 percent according to data from the Federal Reserve’s Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers, or CPI-U.

Trump told a crowd on June 18 in Racine, Wis., that "real inflation" is more than twice that.

Keep ReadingShow less
White House

Whoever occupies the Whtie House next year will have the opportunity to make the federal workforce more efficient.

DEA/M. BORCHI/Getty Images

Project 2025: Managing the bureaucracy

Breslin is the Joseph C. Palamountain Jr. Chair of Political Science at Skidmore College and author of “A Constitution for the Living: Imagining How Five Generations of Americans Would Rewrite the Nation’s Fundamental Law.”

This is part of a series offering a nonpartisan counter to Project 2025, a conservative guideline to reforming government and policymaking during the first 180 days of a second Trump administration. The Fulcrum's "Cross-Partisan Project 2025" relies on unbiased critical thinking, reexamines outdated assumptions, and uses reason, scientific evidence, and data in analyzing and critiquing Project 2025

Efficiency is not a word that often comes to mind when contemplating the federal bureaucracy. At almost 3 million workers strong, and representing an eye-popping 2 percent of the entire American labor force, the federal bureaucracy is a behemoth. Add to that eight times as many federal contractors and no one — not Democrats and not Republicans — can claim the bureaucratic sector is streamlined.

Donald Devine, Dennis Dean Kirk and Paul Dans, the authors of chapter 3 of the Heritage Foundation’s “Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise” (aka Project 2025), understand the numbers. And the problem. Or at least I thought they did.

Keep ReadingShow less
Protestors call for health care beneifts

People demonstrate in support of health care in 2017 in Montana, which expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

William Campbell-Corbis via Getty Images

Has Medicaid expansion in states improved health outcomes?

This fact brief was originally published by EconoFact. Read the original here. Fact briefs are published by newsrooms in the Gigafact network, and republished by The Fulcrum. Visit Gigafact to learn more.

Has Medicaid expansion in states improved health outcomes?


Studies have shown that Medicaid expansion in states does lead to improved health outcomes.

Keep ReadingShow less