A new survey says senior congressional staffers believe most lawmakers are overwhelmed and unable to carry out their duties as legislators in the current political environment, according to a Tuesday report by the Congressional Management Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit that studies the effectiveness of Congress.
"We may be beyond a tipping point where there are just too many people, too much communication, too much pressure, and too many crises for senators and representatives to manage without some serious rethinking of congressional operations and capacity," Kathy Goldschmidt, author of the report, said in a statement. "The cornerstone institution of our democracy must be equipped to respond to the challenges we face. Congress must adapt in the face of social transformation so it can effectively govern and lead."
The August 2016 through September 2016 poll of 100 senior House and Senate aides found that only 15 percent are "very satisfied with [their] staff," while 83 percent said this is "very important," a sign that there is not adequate staffing to help lawmakers legislate.
In addition, only 6 percent of all staffers surveyed said they were very satisfied with the amount of time they actually have to deliberate on legislation, according to the report.
"Congress has less nonpartisan internal policy capacity than it used to. Congress seems to have reached a point where senior staffers are concerned whether the Legislative Branch has the intellectual infrastructure to study, deliberate, and decide serious questions of public policy," the report found.
The study also concluded Congress can improve lawmakers' and their staffers' access to high-quality, nonpartisan policy expertise within the legislative branch.
Although staffers believe Congress is not performing at its best, they say adding human resources with adequate experience can help lawmakers. Another recommendation for Congress lies in improving technology for members and staffers.
"Many of the challenges to improving technology lie in tradition, procedure, rules, budgeting practices, cybersecurity, and politics. Congress is under extraordinary simultaneous pressures to create the most transparent institution in the world while being subjected to unprecedented hacking attempts and increasing demands from constituents," CMF found.
Eighty percent of House and Senate communications and legislative staffers admitted that once 30 or so Twitter messages are directed at a member of Congress on a certain issue, that was enough to influence the lawmaker's decision or position.