Empowering Congress

Supporting an Independent and Effective Legislature

Although Congress is the most directly representative branch of our federal government, this institution has ceded power to the other branches and limited its own legislative and oversight capacity over the last four decades. We envision a Congress that is ready and able to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities to serve the American people.

Ready and Able to Serve

In its role as the first branch of government, Congress must make sense of complex issues to set policy for the nation, represent and serve constituents, allocate funds for the federal government, and conduct oversight of the executive branch.

Yet in recent decades, Congress has ceded significant power to the presidency while decreasing support for its own essential functions. Close competition for congressional majorities is further exacerbating the level of dysfunction, as the institution is too often used as a tool to win the next election rather than as a core governing body. The result is gridlock, increased reliance on lobbyists and special interests, and the inability to address new and pressing policy problems.

To counteract these challenges, the Empowering Congress strategy seeks to restore the agency of Members to represent their districts, and make Congress more capable of delivering successful public policy outcomes for the American people. We support organizations that:

  • Educate Congress about the need for a strong legislature and about a range of reforms to help it reassert its Article One authority
  • Conduct research to better understand existing challenges to effective congressional operations, and identify promising interventions and supports
  • Educate legislators and staff on complex policy issues by connecting them to independent technical and subject matter experts
  • Fill existing gaps in congressional functions, including orientation, training on oversight and legislative procedure, and regularized professional development
  • Develop secure digital tools to help Congress manage information overload and have meaningful, productive engagement with colleagues and constituents

Explore Our Other Governance Strategies

Governance program strategies include efforts to strengthen congressional capacity to legislate and perform oversight, as well as measures to protect the rule of law and check executive power. They also include experiments to mitigate polarization, promote pluralism, and advance shared American priorities and values.

Learn more about our Governance program

Constructive Politics

Heightened polarization shuts down dialogue across political ideologies, ethnicities, and faith communities — and many Americans don’t see themselves in the policies that shape our lives. The Constructive Politics strategy explores what unites us while helping governing institutions become more diverse, inclusive, and better able to serve all Americans.

Learn more about this effort
Special Project

Accountability and Oversight

The Constitution designed a system of checks and balances to protect against abuse or tyranny. However, decades of executive overreach, polarization, and lack of oversight have undermined this system, allowing some elected officials to put their own interests above the public’s. The special project on Government Accountability and Oversight pursues practical approaches to restoring the balance — and protecting the rule of law.

Learn more about this effort
Democracy Fund
1200 17th Street NW Suite 300,
Washington, DC 20036