How to Salvage Congress

Congressional Reform By Kevin R. Kosar April 24, 2024

Mike Gallagher, “How to Salvage Congress,” The Atlantic, November 13, 2018.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) penned this essay not quite two years after he arrived in Congress. He states,

“When I ran in 2016, I assumed the problem with Congress was the people. I thought most members were either hopelessly unqualified or ruthlessly ambitious. Or probably both. And to be sure, Congress has always had its dunces and its Machiavellis. However, most of the representatives I have gotten to know on both sides of the aisle are smart, patriotic, and hardworking.

“I have come to believe that the problem is not the people. The problem is a defective process and a power structure that, whichever party is in charge, funnels all power to leadership and stifles debate and initiative within the ranks. Your average member of Congress, far from being drunk on power, actually has very little of it outside a cable-news studio.

“Unfortunately, a structural problem is harder to fix than a people problem. In the House of Representatives, we have an opportunity to get rid of bad people every two years via elections. Reforming the legislative process and realigning incentives is more difficult. The reality is that Congress cannot get anything done because it is not equipped to get anything done. It is no longer a tool suited to its original purpose of making laws and providing oversight. It has instead become a theater used by both parties to stoke the outrage of their base.”

He advocated three reforms to improve the House of Representatives:

  • congressional calendar: “members of Congress could stay in session for three consecutive weeks, each with at least five full-session days, to be followed by one week back in the district”;
  • committee leadership: “have committee members choose their own chairmen”; and
  • committee juridiction: “reducing the total number of committees to better correspond with the number of major executive-branch departments and agencies.”

Notably, in March of 2024 Rep. Gallagher anounced he would not run for Congress again or even serve out his term.

Read the full essay at


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