Congress now plays the role of the pickup team. Today, it operates with roughly 80 percent of 1979 staffing levels. At the same time, Congress is experiencing 800 percent more incoming contact from the outside world.
In an interview after his announced departure, DeMint expressed excitement about the potential for Heritage to accelerate its policy evangelizing. He specifically noted his desire to promote the analysis and research generated by Heritage. The group’s Center for Data Analysis boasts one of the largest collections of public policy in the U.S. Heritage economists have developed their own interpretive models for data which actively compete with the Congressional Budget Office. Last year, House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., submitted a formal request to the Heritage’s center of his proposed budget. The center delivered a positive response.
By eliminating its shared system and the staff custodians of public interest knowledge, it’s clear that Congress’ 1995 decision has resulted in more partisanship along with biased information becoming the basis for legislation. There is very little consensus on what constitutes the “greater good” these days and the institutions that should be defensive light brigades are in tatters. In recent years, Congress’ expert bureaucracies have come under repeated attack from the right and private moneyed interests. Conservatives have slammed the CBO over the budget and health care estimates. The Government Accountability Office has been in lawsuits as a plaintiff against the Bush administration and more recently, as the defendant in a case brought by for-profit universities. At a recent holiday party, an acquaintance noted with dismay the self-censorship at the Congressional Research Service in the wake of a rescinded tax policy report — also attacked by conservatives. Apparently CRS administration is afraid to produce anything about sequestration, aka the fiscal cliff. The House Armed Services Committee has filled part of the gap. A pop-up window on the HASC website leads the viewer to a “sequestration resource kit” on defense spending. If you read carefully, you’ll see that its contents are courtesy of The Heritage Foundation and the Aerospace Industry, among others.
Lorelei Kelly is a research fellow for the Open Technology Institute, part of the New America Foundation.