Evidence Commission Recommendations Generate Pushback in House Hearing

A hearing today by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform appeared to generate more questions than support for the recommendations of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking.

The hearing’s four witnesses, all of whom served on the commission (including the chair and co-chair, Katharine Abraham and Ron Haskins), used their time to explain its 22 recommendations. However, the central purpose and value of those recommendations — to help build a national evidence base on federal programs and interventions to determine which work and which do not — did not seem to be clear to most of the members of the House committee.

Several Democrats used the occasion to criticize the Trump administration for policies that they felt were insufficiently evidence-based, including those on global warming and teen pregnancy prevention.  Republicans seemed skeptical that a new office — the proposed National Secure Data Service — was needed at the Commerce Department, expressing a traditional Republican small-government point of view.

The central bipartisan point, that evidence could enable federal agencies to achieve better outcomes at lower cost, seemed lost on most of the members of Congress who were present.

Fortunately, backing from the commission’s main supporters in Congress — House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray — is still likely to be strong enough to ensure that some form of “downpayment” legislation moves in the weeks ahead.


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