Center for Effective Lawmaking


The Center for Effective Lawmaking seeks to understand the institutions, strategies, and career paths that elected officials might employ and follow to cultivate different methods for becoming effective lawmakers in Congress.


Center research into the best practices of most effective lawmakers has led to the development of the 5 Habits of Highly Effective Lawmakers:

  1. Develop a legislative agenda rooted in personal background, previous experiences, and policy expertise.
  2. Develop a legislative agenda tightly focused on district needs.
  3. Be entrepreneurial with positions of institutional power.
  4. Be open to compromise, even with those who are not natural allies.
  5. Cultivate a broad set of allies, even beyond the House.

We are currently engaged in a number of different research projects in this space, including:

  • Examination of legislative effectiveness in the United States Senate, to help identify what institutions and strategies help highly effective senators advance their legislation.
  • Examination of how the selection process and institutional positions of party leaders in Congress influence their lawmaking effectiveness.
  • Exploring which policy areas lawmakers focus their attention on, in order to be responsive to constituents, to take advantage of resources from staff, committees, and interest groups, and to learn from past successes.
  • Examination of, and assessing the extent to which legislators in Congress value the quality of legislation in solving public policy problems, in addition to the ideological positions of such proposals.
  • Developing a theory of how ideology and effectiveness influence the content of the legislation that is passed through Congress.
  • An examination of how bills that engage with women’s issues progress through Congress.
  • Exploring the extent to which legislative staff experience influences the lawmaking effectiveness of members of Congress.
  • Exploring whether participation in ideological caucuses in Congress enhances or undermines the effectiveness of their members.
  • An examination of the extent to which bipartisan lawmakers are more effective lawmakers in Congress.
  • An exploration of the activities and strategies that newly elected members of Congress can engage in and employ to become effective lawmakers in their early years in office.

We are increasing our engagement in the cultivation space by communicating regularly with lawmakers, staff, and voters. We work with the Lugar Center to host a policy roundtable series on Capitol Hill for Congressional staff. We regularly invite former lawmakers to reflect on the lessons they learned in Congress and we are in the process of assembling a new member handbook with best practices for effective lawmaking.

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