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  Why is Congress so dumb?
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Last EditedRP  Jan 11, 2019 02:02pm
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CategoryCommentary
AuthorBill Pascrell Jr.
News DateFriday, January 11, 2019 08:00:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionOur decay as an institution began in 1995, when conservatives, led by Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), carried out a full-scale war on government. Gingrich began by slashing the congressional workforce by one-third. He aimed particular ire at Congress’s brain, firing 1 of every 3 staffers at the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service and the Congressional Budget Office. He defunded the Office of Technology Assessment, a tech-focused think tank. Social scientists have called those moves Congress’s self-lobotomy, and the cuts remain largely unreversed.

Gingrich’s actions didn’t stop with Congress’s mind: He went for its arms and legs, too, as he dismantled the committee system, taking power from chairmen and shifting it to leadership. His successors as speaker have entrenched this practice. While there was a 35 percent decline in committee staffing from 1994 to 2014, funding over that period for leadership staff rose 89 percent.

This imbalance has defanged many of our committees, as bills originating in leadership offices and K Street suites are forced through without analysis or alteration. Very often, lawmakers never even see important legislation until right before we vote on it.
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