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Signs of Life in the Healthy Congress Index and New Hampshire

By Betsy Wright Hawkings / 2015 October 23rd

There’s some irony in the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) releasing its third quarterly Healthy Congress Index two weeks after House Republicans failed to agree on a candidate for Speaker. And earlier this month, the search for a new leader intensified in Washington as the nonpartisan group No Labels convened more than 1,500 Problem Solvers and 8 presidential candidates in New Hampshire for a convention on finding common ground.

The coming months will reveal how the recent actions of a few members of the Freedom Caucus will play out politically, and how those actions will impact emerging signs of health in American democracy as seen in the work of organizations like BPC and No Labels Foundation (both of which are Democracy Fund grantees).

Healthy political parties play an important role in effective, functioning legislatures. But our government’s congressional majority, believing it depended on large numbers to enact a policy mandate to combat the Executive Branch, tolerated members willing to put politics above the basic institutional integrity of the House.

At the Democracy Fund, we are working to make sense of these complex problems and to open ourselves up to new, creative solutions. Our process includes mapping the systems of Congress, with the goal of helping our Governance Program better understand Congress and the hyperpartisanship that has recently characterized it. Our hope is to help the institution – and the dedicated members and staff who work there – to develop more efficient systems to facilitate its functions and to empower more effective leaders in service of our country.

Over recent weeks, the question of whether the system as we have understood it can continue to function became more urgent. So long believing that the common enemy of big government and overregulation would ultimately keep their team united, House leadership misunderstood that the real goal of some appears to have been to break the system entirely.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s assessment of the Healthy Congress and No Labels’ Problem Solvers aside, time will tell how this episode will affect our political system’s ability to function—of the people, by the people and for the people.

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