Peter Roskam on “So You Think Congress Needs Fixing?”

Peter Roskam's seminars will be held at 12:30 PM on Thursdays.

All IOP Pritzker Fellows Seminars will be held in the IOP Living Room unless otherwise noted. 
All seminars are students only and closed to press/off the record.

This seminar will examine the Article One branch of the Federal Government — the United States Congress — with a particular view on the House of Representatives. Public opinion polls typically hold Congress in low regard regardless of the majority party. Yet there is often more going on in the House than meets the eye, and attributes of Congressional structure and practice might be more valuable than they are perceived. That said, constituents and others outside of the institution have far more influence than they think. At the end of this seminar it is hoped that participants have a renewed appreciation of the legislative branch and are equipped with tools to engage it successfully.

Additional guests to be announced.

Seminar One (1/24): Disquiet on the Front | RSVP

Americans are an unsettled group. Whether it be restlessness from the left, the center or the right, there are very few satisfied voices in the public square. We will explore reasons for this and how it played out in the 2018 midterms. What are the implications for the next two years of legislation? How does this compare to other American historical experiences? We’ll also discuss remedies moving into the 2020 election and beyond.

Seminar Two (1/31): Tip of the Iceberg: House Leadership Roles | RSVP

Speaker, Majority Leader and now Whip (thanks to “House of Cards”) are the titles that most easily come to mind when discussing House leadership. Yet they are the tip of the iceberg. Party structures — both formal and informal, official and campaign — can impact the trajectory of legislation. As Chief Deputy Whip I was tasked with gathering votes to move the House agenda and learned hard lessons along the way. Passing a budget is essential for a majority party and yet becomes more difficult to attract votes. Seminar participants will gain insight into what levers leadership can use to find allies and overcome obstacles, and what obstacles remain.

Seminar Three (2/6): Committee: A Place to Call Home (Committee Hearing Simulation) | RSVP

*Please note, this seminar will take place on Wednesday, February 6 at 12:30 PM

The House of Representatives is divided into committees to delegate the work flow of the institution. Simply put, 435 Representatives cannot deal with every issue with the same level of attention. Some committees authorize, some appropriate, and some oversee. House Committees conduct their business under strict time limits to expedite the process. How does it all happen? Seminar participants will be assigned roles in this session and will simulate a House Committee hearing with all its time constraints and other hairpin turns.

Seminar Four (2/13): Lobbying: Isn't That a Dirty Word? | RSVP

*Please note, this seminar will take place on Wednesday, February 13 at 3:30 PM

The First Amendment guarantees us the right to petition the government. Today, the scope and scale of influencing federal policy has taken on an order of magnitude that our Founders could never have contemplated. What are the most effective ways the public has used First Amendment rights to impact legislation? What and who have been the most effective constituencies? We will discuss this with an eye toward effective lobbying and organizing techniques and strategies to positively influence policy.

Seminar Five (2/21): When the Government is the Abuser | RSVP

Civil asset forfeiture is a law enforcement tool which was designed to go after the Mafia, drug dealers and human traffickers. But when the Internal Revenue Service turned civil asset forfeiture against a local dairy farmer and froze his assets for no good reason, Congress was outraged. I was joined by my colleagues on the Ways & Means Committee in uncovering a pattern of abuse by the IRS in wrongfully manipulating small businesses out of $20 million in fines. We will look at how we conducted the investigation from the Oversight Subcommittee, the obstacles we faced at the IRS and Justice Department and techniques we used to restrain the bureaucrats. We will discuss this case study with a view toward the nature of compromise in fashioning a response across party lines.

Seminar Six (2/28): The Taxman Cometh | RSVP

The old Internal Revenue Code had no defenders. Neither the left nor the right was particularly pleased with it, and its complexity was overwhelming. Last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was the first major update of the tax code in over thirty years. We will discuss the underlying assumptions which drove the debate, some of the behind-the-scenes negotiating and the impact on future tax discussions.

Seminar Seven (3/7): Beyond the Bumper Sticker | RSVP

It’s one thing to slap a catchy phrase on the back of a vehicle and quite another to successfully enact a change in policy. We will examine the truth behind the phrase “Gee, does it take an Act of Congress to get that done?” Strategies include building a coalition, anticipating opposition and minimizing it, navigating around professional Congressional staff and Parliamentarians and other passive-aggressive forces on Capitol Hill.

Special Guest: Dean Thompson, former Deputy Chief of Staff to Peter Roskam

Seminar Eight (3/11): Democracy in America: Do We Really Have Anything to Preach About? | RSVP

*Please note, this seminar will take place on Monday, March 11 at 12:30 PM

The US House Democracy Partnership (HDP) is a bipartisan commission of the House of Representatives that partners with emerging democracies across the globe to support effective government and strengthen democratic institutions by assisting legislatures. This is particularly important in the face of authoritarian pressures. We will be joined by Congressman David Price (D-NC), HDP Chairman to discuss the US role in advocating for democracy on a global basis.

Special Guest: Representative David Price (D-NC)