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Problem

Today less than 15% of the American electorate has a positive view of Congressional
performance, possibly the lowest in history.

 

The Rebuild Congress Initiative (RCI) aims to help Congress again fulfill — and be seen and appreciated for fulfilling — its Constitutional role as a co-equal branch of government, able to initiate action, exercise independent judgment on policy, assert its prerogatives (including control of all government spending and any decision to go to war), provide robust oversight of the executive branch and its entire bureaucracy, and generally function as a responsible and responsive deliberative body representing the whole of the electorate. In such a body individual Members should be empowered to bring their full abilities and best judgment to the service of their country and their constituents more than any party, donor, or other interest.

RCI is an initiative of the Harvard Negotiation Project, a leading academic research group which seeks to develop and apply ideas of use to practitioners in managing conflict, and Issue One, one of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations focused on political reform and government ethics that has recruited more than 200 former members of Congress to advocate on behalf of democracy reform.

To pursue its objective, RCI brings together Members of Congress to explore and develop actionable strategies for addressing the systemic challenges that are preventing Congress as an institution from fulfilling its duties as an independent and coequal branch of our government. The RCI team comes to this effort with no predetermined policy prescriptions.

The RCI team aims to facilitate wide-ranging deliberative sessions with Members from across the political spectrum — from conservatives in the Freedom Caucus to liberals in the Progressive Caucus and all those in between.

So far in 2018, RCI has convened more than 130 deliberative group and one-on-one meetings with more than 60 influential Members of the U.S. House of Representatives from across the political spectrum. These extremely unusual meetings revealed broad agreement on what is wrong with Congress today and a strong desire to make Congress more effective, more independent, and better at leveraging the talents of all its Members.

In a relatively short time, by their own request, a broad and diverse group of these Members agreed on four goals to pursue right from the beginning of the next Congress:

  1. Establish a bipartisan Select (or Joint Select) Committee on the organization of Congress and improving its ability to fulfill its Article I duties;

  2. Reinforce the primacy of Committees in reviewing and crafting legislation;

  3. Promote “regular order” for the consideration of bills on the floor, allowing for reasonable and germane amendments and real deliberation; and

  4. Seek to empower individual members of Congress to contribute fully to the legislative and oversight processes.

RCI also worked with these Members, informed by consultations with a broad group of experts inside and outside of Congress, to craft some illustrative proposals (related to House Rules and Administration), intended to stimulate dialogue, for how to begin implementing these principles. These ideas are now being discussed by their colleagues and leadership on both sides of the aisle.

Going forward, Members have agreed to work with RCI to explore more fundamental measures to grapple with the systemic forces contributing to Congressional dysfunction. RCI also intends in 2019 to expand its work to include the Senate.

RCI’s work has been funded to date by a small, bipartisan group of individual donors, with senior staff donating their time. Additional funding will be needed to support the continuation of this work. Your tax-deductible donation would be greatly appreciated!

Resources:

Kilmer-Buck proposals for House rules changes.

Letter to House Leadership.

Read Issue One’s press release.

 

Building Consensus

In 2018, the Rebuild Congress Initiative (RCI) convened more than 130 deliberative group and one-on-one meetings with more than 60 bipartisan members of the U.S. House from across the political spectrum, ranging from conservatives in the Freedom Caucus to liberals in the Progressive Caucus. The RCI team also consulted with policy and legislative specialists from American Enterprise Institute, Brookings Institute, Congressional Institute, Demand Progress, Heritage Foundation, Issue One, New America, R Street, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, former Parliamentarians and former and current Republican and Democratic staffers of the Rules Committee, among others.

About the Rebuild Congress Initiative

The Rebuild Congress Initiative is a project led by experts from the Harvard Negotiation Project in partnership with Issue One, one of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations focused on political reform and government ethics that has recruited more than 200 former members of Congress to its bipartisan ReFormers Caucus to advocate on behalf of democracy reform. In December 2017, Issue One’s ReFormers Caucus inspired the creation of the bipartisan Congressional Reformers Caucus, the first caucus of its kind in the House dedicated to political reform that is in the 115th Congress is comprised of 32 members.

The RCI team


J.b. Lyon

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J.B. is a co-director of the Rebuild Congress Initiative and a founding board member of Issue One.  Since 2012, J.B. has run Mt. Independence Investments, his family office, which primarily invests early stage and growth capital in business service companies as well as real estate. He worked prior to Mt. Independence in private equity investing in the energy sector. He spent the first 20 years of his career as an entrepreneur and intrapreneur. In 1998, he wrote the business plan and led the launch of Staples.com. In the early 1980s, J.B. led his first entrepreneurial venture when he created a company with his father that became the first licensee of Pac-Man paraphernalia.


Bruce Patton

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Bruce is co-director of the Rebuild Congress Initiative and Distinguished Fellow of the Harvard Negotiation Project and coauthor of the seminal negotiation texts Getting to YES and Difficult Conversations. Bruce, in his early career, partnered with negotiation expert Roger Fisher, in creating the structure for the resolution of the U.S.-Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 and training the facilitation team drawn from the business community that managed the constitutional negotiations in South Africa that led to the end of apartheid, among many other international interventions. More recently he has focused in the corporate sector on helping organizations fundamentally transform their strategy, norms, and behaviors in the face of so-called “adaptive” challenges.


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Patrick manages the Rebuild Congress Initiative. Previously, Pat worked with Bruce Patton at Vantage Partners, advising leading companies on organizational transformation, negotiation strategy, and the future of work. He was also a General Manager and early employee at Catalant Technologies.