The John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service released today a bipartisan white paper offering recommendations to Members of Congress and their staffs for changing the way Congress operates in order to enable the legislative branch to bring into focus — and tackle — the enormous challenges of the future facing the American people.
The report, “Looking to the Future: The Challenge to Congress,” comes from a bipartisan advisory board led by former U.S. Representative Lee H. Hamilton, currently President and Director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and also including former U.S. Representatives Sherwood L. Boehlert and Eva N. Clayton, and former U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson.
Based on a comprehensive, two-year “Congress and the Future Project,” which drew expertise from scholars, government officials, and other experts, the 44-page paper explores the organization and operations of the Congress in connection with huge, long-range challenges confronting the country, among them health care, energy, Social Security, immigration, national security, environmental policy, and infrastructure.
“Why,” asks the white paper, “does Congress so often shun complex issues with potent future impacts? Are these problems in the organization and operations of Congress that ill fit it to deal with the future? If so, what is the potential for congressional reform? And what specific changes might Congress make to better align its operations with substantive challenges facing the American people in the years ahead.”
Among the recommendations:
- Establish a National Foresight Agency in the Executive Office of the President, led by an Assistant to the President, to advise the president on important future concerns and to work with OMB and other executive agencies to integrate planning for the future into the annual budget and executive program initiatives.
- Consider broader use of trust funds by Congress as vehicles for building revenues in preparation for mostly future expenditures, and seek to spread costs as well as benefits over the long-term - for example, by scheduling tax increases or benefit cuts in the future.
- Experiment with wider use and a wider range of action-forcing practices at congressional disposal, such as military base closure procedures, or the triggers in the Medicare Act that require the President to propose and the Congress to consider expedited legislation to address growing costs when the Medicare Trustees issue an official “funding warning.”
- Establish a new legislative support agency, the Office of Future Analysis, to provide early earnings and essential understanding of potential future crises and opportunities, and provide for training of senior congressional staff in the language and techniques of long-term analysis and planning.
“[I]f we fail to act soon and in significant proportion,” according to the report, “the challenges the future will become the crises of the present.”
To access the full paper electronically, visit http://www.nyu.edu/brademas/pdf/WhitePaper.LookingtotheFuture.pdf
The mission of the John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress is to increase the understanding of Congress-its role in making policy, and its powers, processes, and responsibilities. The Center’s bi-partisan work is aimed at scholars, students, current and future public servants, and the public. The Center conducts research, teaches and holds public outreach events such as symposia and conferences, and hosts policy addresses by members of Congress. As a part of the New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, the Center strives to help the next generation of public service leaders develop a deeper understanding of how and why Congress makes decisions. It is named for founder John Brademas, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 22 years (1959-81).