In 2017, amidst heightened partisan polarization across the country, roughly 50 bipartisan members of the U.S. House of Representatives established the Problem Solvers Caucus. The move represents an unprecedented effort by lawmakers to institutionalize cross-party collaboration and combat legislative stalemate, says UCI political science assistant professor Danielle Thomsen, and in some ways, it appears to be working.

“From a policymaking perspective, the PSC has demonstrated a real capacity to shape legislative outcomes,” she says, pointing to their 2018 “Break the Gridlock” effort that demanded rules changes in the House to promote bipartisan lawmaking. Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to several of the procedural reforms in exchange for the caucus’s support. 

Thomsen has been awarded a $3,000 grant from the Dirksen Congressional Center to study the caucus using interviews, document review and analysis. Over the next year, she’ll explore the caucus’s rules, structure and legislative effectiveness to better understand the conditions under which organized cross-party collaboration can be constructed and sustained. 

“To understand future prospects for legislative compromise, it is important to look at the institutions that legislators themselves create to pursue such goals,” she says.

Funding for this work began in September and will run through August 2020.

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