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R Street Institute

R Street Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public policy research organization. We are a free market think-tank with a pragmatic approach to public-policy challenges. Our mission is to engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective government. We work extensively on both state and national policy and are dedicated to building broad coalitions and working with a wide array of groups who share specific policy goals.

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Congress
House Government Oversight Committee

Kevin Kosar testifying on Capitol Hill in December 2016.

Meet the reformer: Kevin Kosar, strong voice for a stronger Congress

Kevin Kosar is vice president of policy at R Street Institute and also cofounder of the nonpartisan Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group, which aims to strengthen Congress. He was previously a senior official at the Congressional Research Service, where he served as an analyst and research manager. His answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

What's the tweet-length description of your organization?

R Street is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public policy research organization. Our mission is to engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective government.

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Balance of Power
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Scott Olson/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidates debate at the Fox Theater in Detroit.

At the next debates, ask about things a president can do

Marcum is a governance fellow at R Street Institute, a nonpartisan, pro-free-market, public policy research organization.

July's Democratic presidential debates highlighted a number of important national issues. From health care to economic inequality, candidates offered many purported solutions. The vast majority of these ambitious plans, however, face a fundamental constitutional roadblock: Congress.

Without congressional support, plans such as Medicare for All or amending the Immigration Nationality Act are dead on arrival. Voters, candidates and media alike are well aware that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would prevent any such legislation from passing his chamber, and if Republicans take the House, the chances for passage are even slimmer.

But if you were completely unfamiliar with American civics, you might have assumed from watching the debates that a president's role is to make policy and lambaste Congress when it does not comply. But of course, all legislative power rests with Congress. Viewers of the debates would be better served by questions that illuminate the presidency's actual institutional roles. These responsibilities are vital for governing, but we often fail to press candidates about them until it is too late.

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Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Wickersham feeds a test ballot into a vote counting machine last fall. A new report finds many states need more money to secure their voting systems from cyberattacks.

What six states reveal about the price of 2020 election security

States are taking steps to protect their voting systems from the sort of cyberattacks that marked the 2016 presidential election, but they lack the funds to do all that's needed.

That is the conclusion of a report released Thursday by four groups that monitor voting security or advocate for additional federal intervention to bolster cybersecurity for the political system: the Brennan Center for Justice, R Street Institute, Alliance for Securing Democracy and the University of Pittsburgh.

They sampled what is happening in six states, chosen in part because hacking was attempted in several of them in the past few years. In Illinois, for example, special counsel Robert Mueller's report found that Russian operatives hacked into the state database of registered voters and extracted some data before they were blocked.

One common theme among the states is their hunger for more federal aid to replace aging voting machines.

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Congress
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Zillow

A one-bedroom, one-bath apartment totaling 460 square foot will run you $1,950 on Capitol Hill.

Congress should get a pay raise, whether they deserve it or not

Drutman, a senior fellow in the political reform program at New America, and Kosar, vice president of policy at the R Street Institute, are co-directors of the nonpartisan Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group.

You've surely heard the old line, "The best Congress money can buy." Typically, it's said sardonically. In the classic formulation, it's not your money doing the buying. It's special interests and lobbyists forking over the dough. In exchange, they get the best Congress they can buy – for them.

But what if it were your money? How much should you, the taxpayers, be willing to pay? If you want a Congress that works for you, can you get it on the cheap?

The debate is not an academic one. House Democrats and Republican leaders have proposed boosting legislators' pay by providing a cost of living adjustment of $4,500. The current annual salary of $174,000 has not changed since 2009. Adjusted for inflation, that amounts to a 16 percent decrease.

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