At a time when our nation faces immense challenges, the American people have never had less faith in the ability of Congress to do anything about them. This problem couldn’t be more serious—because if Congress is broken, so is the United States of America.
The biggest problem with Congress is not necessarily the people in it. It’s the outdated rules, procedures and traditions that govern the institution and impede the process of getting things done. Congress has become a place where even good, talented people get dragged down by an archaic system. But a lot can be done about updating the rules of Congress, so that we can make our government work again.
A grassroots movement known as NoLabels.org promotes 12-point action plan to Make Congress Work. This plan doesn’t require new laws or new spending, and the organization does not favor any party or particular cause. The plan contains simple, straightforward proposals to break gridlock, promote constructive discussion, and reduce polarization in Congress. It is food for thought when the next Congress convenes in January 2013.
See if you don’t think they make a lot of common sense.
1. No Budget, No Pay. If Congress can’t make spending and budget decisions on time, they shouldn’t get paid on time either.
2. Up or Down Vote on Presidential Appointments. All appointees should receive an up or down vote within 90 days of their name being sent to the Senate. If deadline is not met, the nominee would be confirmed by default.
3. Filibuster Reform. The filibuster fix is based on a simple idea: If senators want to filibuster legislation, they should actually have to publicly explain why. Eliminating the filibuster for motions to proceed would allow more issues to be debated and voted on by the whole Senate.
4. Empower the Sensible Majority. House and Senate rules should be reformed to make it easier for a bipartisan majority to bring legislation to the House or Senate floor over the objection of party leaders.
5. Make Members Come to Work. Congress could get more done if they actually came to their offices in the capital. The House and Senate should be in Washington, D.C. for three weeks in any given month. The House and Senate should also have five-day work weeks and they should be in session at the same time.
6. Question Time for the President. America should take a cue from the British Parliament’s regular questioning of the prime minister to create question time for the president and Congress.
7. Fiscal Report to Congress. Hear it. Read it. Sign it: Every year, a nonpartisan leader, such as the comptroller general, should deliver a fiscal update that must be signed off on by our senior political leaders, just as CEOs are required to affirm the accuracy of their company’s financial reporting.
8. No Pledge but the Oath of Office. It’s time to cut the puppet strings that allow narrow interest groups to control members of Congress. Members should make no pledge but the pledge of allegiance and their formal oath of office.
9. Monthly Bipartisan Gatherings. To get members talking to one another, both the House and Senate should institute monthly bipartisan gatherings.
10. Bipartisan Seating. It’s time to curb the cliques in Congress. At all joint meetings or sessions of Congress, each member should be seated next to at least one member of the other party.
11. Bipartisan Leadership Committee. Congressional party leaders should form a bipartisan congressional leadership committee as a forum for discussing both legislative agendas and substantive solutions.
12. No Negative Campaigns Against Incumbents. Incumbents from one party should not conduct negative campaigns against incumbents from the opposing party. Members would, of course, be free to campaign or fundraise in support of candidates from their party.
I encourage you to learn more at www.nolabels.org. I have joined and I invite you to join me!