Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., says he will soon introduce legislation that would create a commission on “evidence-based policymaking” within Congress to ensure policymaking is based more on federal data and facts rather than opinions.
Kilmer, who is the ranking member of the new House Administration Subcommittee on Modernization and the former chair of the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress for the past four years, will shortly introduce the new legislation, which already has two Democratic and two Republican co-sponsors.
The bill would establish a commission and convene experts to review, analyze, and make recommendations to Congress in an effort to better incorporate federal data and evidence-based policymaking throughout the legislative process.
“The goal was for it to give more power to data and evidence. Part of the challenge in Congress is oftentimes policy gets made based on what people think and opinions, not what the facts are,” Kilmer told FedScoop during an exclusive interview.
“We’re trying to put more emphasis on having decisions baked in and grounded in fact and evidence. I think that would serve our constituents better,” he added.
It’s not clear yet how the experts on the commission would be chosen or how “evidence” would be defined.
The new legislation will build upon a non-binding resolution Kilmer introduced in November to encourage evidence-based policymaking, which was co-led by Reps. William Timmons, R-S.C., David Joyce, R-Ohio, and Dean Phillips, D-Minn., all members of the Modernization Subcommittee.
It also comes after Congress in 2018 passed the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, which similar to this new measure required federal agencies to base new policy on data and created chief data officer roles responsible for cultivating agency data strategies.
Kilmer did not disclose the Republican and Democratic members who are in support of the upcoming legislation and are co-sponsors, but his staff said they have had prior support from data advocacy and civic organizations like the Lincoln Policy Network, Results for America, BPC, Data Foundation, and USA Facts, which are also expected to support the bill.
When asked about potential opposition to the bill, Kilmer said: “I don’t know who would be against having evidence-based policymaking?”
“I don’t know, if you think about when this idea was first worked on several years ago it was people like [Republicans] Paul Ryan, it was Patty Murray. It was a pretty interesting ideological mix of people,” said Kilmer.
Public opinion trends in the U.S. over the last three decades suggest an overwhelming lack of trust in government, regardless of which political party is in control, according to Gallup polls.
A significant cause for this mistrust is the gridlock in Congress where there are many policy areas where most Republicans and Democrats disagree on how to measure or interpret performance and effectiveness, ranging from healthcare access and immigration policy to tactics for keeping the economy strong, according to a Pew Research Center report from 2015.
A 2018 study by the Bipartisan Policy Center said: “A recent analysis suggests that members of Congress increasingly rely on one-sided information. This suggests that information processing has become increasingly complex, challenging, and partisan within Congress.”
Kilmer’s bill, which is bipartisan and is expected to get a Senate companion as well, aims to take a stab at the problem of one-sided opinions in Congress by re-engineering the process of policymaking around facts and evidence through a non-partisan lens.