Strengthening Checks and Balances

Building a Better Congress

The Problem

The Problem

Congress is a crucial part of the three-branch system that keeps our government ticking. Not only does Congress represent the people, the legislative branch should also act as a critical check on the executive and judicial branches. Over time, Congress has ceded some of its authority, failing to hold the president and other executive officials accountable when they abuse their offices or act corruptly. We’re pushing for reforms and resources that would improve Congress’s ability to act as a check on the executive branch and make sure members of Congress are acting ethically. By doing so, we can better ensure that our leaders are held accountable and that the whole of government is serving the public.

Collage of the U.S. Capitol building, a presidential podium, and a group of Supreme Court justices
Quick Facts

Did you know?

Congress has the authority to enforce its subpoenas. But after a decade of Congress refusing to use that power, executive branch officials are increasingly deciding to resist congressional subpoenas, at times simply refusing to comply. Congress must update its procedures for enforcing subpoenas.

A study completed in 2022 by researchers at the Univerity of Michigan found that the trainings POGO offers to congressional oversight staff both improve oversight capabilities and keep experienced staffers on Capitol Hill longer.

The authority to start wars lies with Congress, and yet Congress has let the executive branch usurp some of that power and deploy troops without congressional approval. We’re pushing for reforms that would return this important power to the people’s representatives in Congress.

What’s at Stake

What’s at Stake

Hearings in Congress Are Increasingly About Partisanship

Too often, members of Congress choose witnesses for oversight hearings based on who agrees with them, not who’s most qualified to help them uncover the truth. Both chambers of Congress should enact rules to ensure hearing witnesses are fully vetted.

Legislators’ Stock Trading Erodes Public Confidence

Decisions by Congress can move markets, yet elected representatives are allowed to trade stocks — even though Congress is privy to confidential briefings. It’s no wonder the public doesn’t believe Congress is always acting in their best interest.

Learn more

Qualified Staff Keep Congress on Track, but Turnover’s too High

High turnover on Capitol Hill makes it hard for members of Congress to maintain the staff they need to conduct effective oversight. Congress should do more to train staff and boost retention.

Take Action
Related Content

Related Content