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Legislating for the Future

Event Series

Institutional Barriers to Legislating for the Future

December 15, 2006

Institutional Barriers to Legislating for the Future Event

The first Legislating for the Future forum was held on Friday, December 15, 2006 at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. At the event, which was covered live by C-SPAN, former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) and former U.S. Representative Bill Frenzel (R-Minnesota) shared their perspectives on the institutional barriers to legislating for the future. In addition, Paul Light presented his research on why Congress has difficulty legislating on long-term issues the public often describes as paramount, as did  Sarah A. Binder, a Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution;  James A. Dewar, Senior Policy Analyst at RAND; and  G. Calvin Mackenzie, Professor of American Government at Colby College. All the presenters also discussed concrete ways to improve the decision-making capacity of “The People’s Branch.”

Politics of the Global Environment

March 30, 2007

The next event in this project series, which focused on the difficulties of addressing the complex long-range issue of the global environment, given the institutional barriers to action in Congress, took place on Friday, March 30, 2007 on Capitol Hill. The panel of three speakers (Barry Rabe, University of Michigan and the Brookings Institution; Robert Lempert, RAND Corporation; and  Leon Fuerth, the George Washington University) examined the politics of the global environmental issue, ways that Congress can anticipate the future through a new analytic approach, and the overall challenges of making long-range policy.

Global Climate Change and the Environment

April 10, 2007

The Brademas Center was proud to host a special event on April 10, 2007 on Capitol Hill as part of "Legislating for the Future," which brought together Senator John Kerry and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich for a public event during with they considered the issue of global climate change and the environment, and what Congress should do to address these issues. Senator John Kerry, author of This Moment on Earth, and the Honorable Newt Gingrich, author of Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America, delivered remarks on the ways in which Congress might be able to resolve its differences on global climate change and the environment through institutional change, new analytic techniques, and legislative innovation.

Social Security

September 21, 2007

Following the issue of the global environment, the project focused on Social Security, which many argue is one of the most controversial policy problems on the legislative agenda. Even though many experts agree that the program is headed for crisis, Congress simply cannot find enough focus to examine the problems, sift through the solutions and reach a consensus on how to protect Social Security. The question is not whether the program will need repair, but what kinds of repairs Congress can bear. On September 21, 2007 three papers were presented by the John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress. The authors are three of the leading scholars in the field – former White House aides and Brookings Institution scholars Jason Furman and William Galston, and RAND scholar  Steven Popper.


December 14, 2007

When setting legislative agendas in Washington, defense has always been a controversial issue. But it will become even more controversial in the future as Congress eventually comes to grips with the War on Terror and other defense issues such as changes in force structure, Department of Defense reform and base closings. The question is how Congress can address these defense issues before they become so difficult that action is impossible. On December 14, 2007, the Brademas Center held its last forum in this series by presenting three papers by three of the leading scholars in the field – Paul K. Davis, Principal Researcher, The Rand Corporation, Kenneth R. Mayer, Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution.

About the Project

On Friday, September 29, 2006, the “Legislating for the Future” project was officially launched at a news conference in Washington, DC. At this news conference, a just-completed  national survey by the Brademas Center was released, which shows that, while Congressional races concentrate on the war in Iraq and the state of the economy, Americans are worried about long-term issues such as global warming, terrorism, Social Security and Medicare -- and they doubt Congress has the knowledge or ability to address them. NYU Professor Paul C. Light, the author of the survey, was joined by former Congressman Lee H. Hamilton, who is President and Director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and an advisory group chairman for the “Legislating the Future.” The study’s dissemination sets the stage for a series of research-based forums.

Organizational Performance Initiative

This project is a part of NYU Wagner Professors Light's Organizational Performance Initiative, which is designed to help organizations respond to the increased uncertainty that surrounds their missions.

The Center completed the Legislating for the Future research endeavor. By assessing congressional capacity and the institution’s ability to make long-term decisions for the 21st Century, the project aims to explore:

  • difficulties that Congress faces when trying to predict outcomes;
  • obstacles to policy making such as the existing committee structure and the increasingly divisive partisanship;
  • and what can be done to make Congress more flexible and adaptive to future problems.

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