It's high time for congressional reform
Americans tend to see Congress as a group of ineffectual politicians who are out of touch with their constituents. They put themselves above the people they are supposed to be representing and are out of touch with reality. They understand nothing about average Americans. The perception is that legislators are doing what is good for them or for their political party, and not for the country as a whole.
Politicians are interested in and motivated by only one thing: re-election. This directly affects most of their positions. PACs and special interest groups wield enormous power regarding legislators, further clouding their judgment.
The result is too much politics, too much partisanship, and perpetual gridlock.
Reforming Congress is a herculean challenge. Since most of Congress's role in government is defined by the Constitution, the only way real reform can work is by adding one or more amendments to the Constitution.
Here are ideas for commonsense congressional reform:
- Term Limits — two terms Senate (12 years), six terms House (12 years) — I would rather see three terms in the House, but that would not be consistent with the Senate.
- There will be no tenure of any kind in Congress with regard to committee assignments, offices, seating, etc. This is important so that all members can participate in the legislative process, not just a few selected by the party leadership.
- Any legislator (or high-ranking government agency director-level employee) is banned from working as a lobbyist or as a high-ranking government agency director-level employee
- No legislator is eligible for any government retirement plan or any other employee benefit after leaving office. No legislator can run for any other elected office while serving in Congress (other than re-election). Establish commonsense reform to define constitutionally mandated redistricting rules to minimize gerrymandering of election districts. Establish commonsense reform of election funding restrictions and PACs to minimize the impact and influence of special interest groups and PACs. Congress will not be allowed to set their own salaries — these should be set to follow a reasonable CPI measure. Legislators must transfer all investments (including those held by immediate family) into a trust while in office to reduce any windfall caused by legislation positive to certain companies.
- Congress must abide by, and not exempt themselves from, all laws they impose on the American people.
- Congress must be made to follow constitutional directives (for example, making a budget) and, if not, face real consequences. No more "kicking the can down the road" to delay matters to future legislators.
- Re-examine all congressional rules of order used in day-to-day workings of the Legislature (for example, voting rules, hearings, filibusters, special order speeches, etc.) and also synchronize schedules between Senate and House to minimize travel costs and frequent delays.
- Congress should establish commonsense rules for congressional travel and individual members' spending (with regard to size of staff, etc.).
I am fully aware that none of these ideas will come to pass. It would take a commitment of current legislators. They would have to vote to restrict their wealth and power. The only way this could be accomplished is if the people demanded it.
Image: National Archives.
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