Meet the reformer: Kevin Kosar, strong voice for a stronger Congress

Kevin Kosar is vice president of policy at R Street Institute and also cofounder of the nonpartisan Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group, which aims to strengthen Congress. He was previously a senior official at the Congressional Research Service, where he served as an analyst and research manager. His answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

What’s the tweet-length description of your organization?

R Street is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public policy research organization. Our mission is to engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective government.

Describe your very first civic engagement.

Voting in the 1988 presidential primaries. I was 18, registered as a Democrat, as my mother would not have it any other way. I pulled the lever for Al Gore, who was a conservative Democrat back in those days. I am an independent these days, although I am effectively disenfranchised: I live in Washington, which has no congressional representation, and which locally is dominated by liberal and ultra-liberal Democrats.

What was your biggest professional triumph?

That is hard to say. I’m delighted to have a new book coming out next year with New America’s Lee Drutman and James Madison University’s Tim LaPira: “Congress Overwhelmed: The Decline in Congressional Capacity and the Prospects for Reform,” published by the University of Chicago Press. I also am really proud of the nonpartisan legislative branch reform movement I have helped build. If we are lucky, we might just upgrade Congress to meet the demands of the 21st century.

And your most disappointing setback?

To date, I have not been able to get Congress to improve its budgeting. Our country is racking up shocking deficits and is doing nothing to deal with looming entitlement and pension crises. We could end up like Greece, yet Capitol Hill will not come together to act. The math is what it is, and I am really worried we are headed toward a financial cataclysm.

How does your identity influence the way you go about your work?

I don’t think I am the smartest person in the room — nor have I ever. So when it comes to trying to improve policy, I listen to a range of ideas and ask a lot of questions. I guess that also speaks to my congenital curiosity. I enjoy learning, I really do, and like working with others who enjoy learning.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t assume good reasons are persuasive. Humans are complicated creatures, and it often takes more than facts and figures to get them to see things differently. For folks looking to reform government or politics, that means one needs to be patient and spend a great deal of time building authentic relationships.

Create a new flavor for Ben & Jerry’s.

Bourbon vanilla crunch — because it would be delicious.

West Wing or Veep?

With four kids and two puppies, I’ve not much time for television. And when I do have time, I tune into football games. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Ohio State Buckeyes are my teams. Also films and oddball series like “The Good Place” and “Parks and Recreation.”

What’s the last thing you do on your phone at night?

Often I shake my head in dismay at the toxicity on Twitter. Inevitably, I double-check my schedule for the coming day to learn: Where will I be? What should I wear? When will I next get to go fishing?

What is your deepest, darkest secret?

Many years ago, I helped throw a vodka festival in Grand Central Station in New York City. A couple hundred folks attended, and it was a crazy night. Penthouse Pets showed up, as did firemen and Wall Street sorts. The event raised about $15,000 for 9/11 first responders. But that is just the tip of my drinky iceberg. I have written books on whiskey and moonshine and have blogged about alcohol since 1998. None of which one would expect from a person trained as a political scientist who spends his days trying to make Congress great again.

Originally published at https://thefulcrum.us on September 27, 2019.

--

--

--

Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC. My books: Congress Overwhelmed (2020) and… See http://kevinrkosar.com

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Today, as part of the ongoing fallout of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signing #HB481 — also known as…

The (billionaires’) case against billionaires

The cover of the Penguin edition of Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ The statue of Atlas has been removed. Lying across the full width of the cover is a golden-tinged smashed Roman statue head of an unknown king, his face half-gone and his nose missing.

Fifty Nine Missiles Heading Towards Your Grocery Store.

King County Mobile Injection Service for the Homeless Begins This Month (and they don’t care what…

A Response to Democratic Party Apologists

Transcript of President Trump’s Good Friday Corona-Rally. April 10, 2020.

Your Hit Parade!

What Those Who Rail against Identity Politics Miss: It’s All Identity Politics

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Kevin R Kosar

Kevin R Kosar

Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC. My books: Congress Overwhelmed (2020) and… See http://kevinrkosar.com

More from Medium

MEMO TO META, TWITTER, & GOOGLE: Suspending Russian Government & Affiliated Accounts

Saturday night with Eurovision: The good, the bad and the downright weird AF

American Civil War Sparked

The Net Zero Labs Initiative Demonstrates NREL Walking the Talk