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The Benefits of Stable Leadership

Published on June 10, 2024

It may feel laughable to talk about stability in Washington these days as Congress contends with an increasingly chaotic election landscape and the unprecedented constitutional challenge of a convicted felon running for President. Adding to this challenge is the response from House leadership to former President Trump’s convictions, including what House Speaker Mike Johnson has described as a three-pronged approach to hinder the Justice Department through the appropriations process, legislation, and oversight.

So while “stability” may not be the word that springs to mind when you look around DC today, consider the words in that previous sentence. “Appropriations, legislation, and oversight.” A few months ago, those concepts seemed like endangered species. But with House leadership seemingly in place for the remainder of this term, stakeholders in Washington and beyond can finally see Congress executing its constitutional responsibilities (for better or worse). 

Speaker Johnson may only command a slim majority to advance his agenda, but with Democrats stepping forward to help him resist attacks from the extremes, he now has a bipartisan mandate to at least keep the show running. And with that mandate comes the power to set the calendar, bring legislation to the floor, appoint, and organize committees, and execute constitutional responsibilities like appropriations bills.  

For those who work with or within the government, stability is the coin of the realm.

It’s why every agency has deputy and assistant secretaries, and clear lines of succession in case decision makers are prevented from executing their duties, or if their offices are kept vacant by delays in the confirmation process. This resilience is not just a safety net, it’s a testament to the strength of our system. It’s also why each of these agencies also have plans in place to handle government shutdowns, continuing resolutions, and other funding interruptions. In other words, agencies have found a way to Congress-proof themselves, at least long enough to keep the planes flying and the social security checks printing.

But agency resilience can only go so far. The Constitution may not explicitly require Congress to do much, but it does require it to exist. It looks like we’ve surmounted that low bar for the remainder of the term. Thanks to the bipartisan margins, the center is finally holding, and Congress has stopped threatening to vote itself out of business. With funding ensured through the end of FY24, the government’s basic functions are also assured. And even though showhorses seem to dominate committee and floor activities more than ever, the workhorses of both chambers and both parties are indeed moving forward on long-term priorities and complex legislation. 

Government affairs professionals and stakeholders, take note, dig in, and get involved. The relative stability in Congressional leadership is not just a relief; it’s a catalyst for positive change. It’s unleashing a flurry of pent-up activity, some of which may endure well beyond the next election. This is a good thing. It’s why we have a Congress – to make laws and manage funds in a way that ensures the continued stability and strength of the nation it serves.

There are seven months remaining in this Congressional term. A lot can happen on the floor in that time, regardless of what happens in the November elections. And once the voters have had their say about who should lead the next Congress, we should all hope that whoever claims the gavel can lead the 119th Congress with predictability, reliability, and stability.

Cori Smith Kramer is CEO of Center Forward, which brings together members of Congress, not-for-profits, academic experts, trade associations, corporations and unions to find common ground and give voice to the center of the American electorate.