IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF CONGRESS
US Renew News Op Ed. | By: US Renew Democracy News | February 15, 2023
Header photo taken from: Reuters
Photo taken from: Francis Chung / Politico
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF CONGRESS
The current ineffectiveness of Congress is one of the biggest threats to our democracy. Increasingly Americans are losing faith in the ability of Congress to pass meaningful legislation and respond to their needs. In this Op ED USRENEW NEWS Reporters offer practical suggestions that will enable Congress to act as the legislative body the founders intended it to be.
Establish Term Limits for Senators and Representatives
The absence of term limits encourages Congressmen and women from becoming more focused on staying in power than in serving their constituents or voting their conscience. It helps dampen the opportunities for new voices and perspectives to be heard.
In recent years there has been some movement within Congress to establish term limits but it has not gotten enough support. We encourage the President and leaders of both parties to put this on their agenda, and pass a bill that limits each Senator and representative to two terms. We also recommend reducing the length of a term of a Senator from six to four years.
Infographic taken from: Daily Signal, US Term Limits
Infographic taken from: Priceonomics
Gerrymandering describes the intentional manipulation of district boundaries to discriminate against a group of voters on the basis of their political views or race. In many states the responsibility for determining voting districts rests with the political party in power.
It is very tempting therefore for the party in power at the state level to arrange voting districts in ways that favor them.
One way around this is for states to appoint independent commissions and give them the responsibility for redistricting. This is a practice being followed in several localities right now. It needs to be adapted by all states.
Do Away with the Filibuster
The rules in the U.S. Senate currently allow any senator to filibuster a bill by not letting it come to a vote until 60 of the 100 senators agree to stop debate. With today’s Senate evenly split, this means no votes can occur except on budget and rules questions (on which a simple majority wins).
Although the filibuster is intended to promote compromise, it doesn’t work that way; so when either party doesn’t like a proposal, they simply filibuster it and prevent a vote altogether. We believe the filibuster is outdated and should be eliminated.
Photo taken from: Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz
Reform Campaign Finance Laws
Photo taken from: Our Common Purpose
In a 2010 case called Citizens United, the Supreme Court overturned certain long-standing restrictions on political fundraising and spending – transforming the entire political landscape of the country.
Most notably, Citizens United granted corporations, nonprofits, and unions unlimited political spending power. This has resulted in large increases in the budgets and costs of running political campaigns, favoring those candidates with deep pockets and ties to the corporate world.
If Citizens United were overturned it could open up Congressional races to more people who are knowledgeable and care about issues but who can’t afford the money needed to compete.
Overturning Citizens United would require federal, state, and local governments to regulate, limit, or prohibit political contributions or expenditures, including those made by a candidate, and would require any permissible political contributions and expenditures to be publicly disclosed.
Strengthen Congressional Ethics
Congress needs to make and enforce stronger rules that govern the ethical conduct of its member. Members should be required to undertake an ethics background check before they can be seated or even run for office. Congress also needs to enact a rule that prohibit stock trading by its members.
Limit the Amount of Topics Addressed in a Legislative Package
Too often the passing of a legislative package includes additional bills that are unrelated to the focus the legislation. These bills are allowed to be included in order to assure additional votes for the legislation. The result of this practice is legislative packages that contain a hodgepodge of laws that get buried in the overall legislation but which may offend many voters once they learn about them. This practice needs to be stopped. Each legislative bill should be voted upon separately on its own merits.
Prohibit the Political Banning of Member Committee Assignments
Each political party should have the right to appoint its own members, with relevant experience, to Congressional Committees. The Speaker of the House and the Ruling Party should not have the ability to ban someone from another party to a Committee assignment. We need to end the practice of “revenge appointments.”
Establish a Congressional Citizen Report Card
An independent bi-partisan Commission should be established to annually issue a Report on the effectiveness of Congress. The Report should provide the pubic with information on such effectiveness indicators as the number of bills that were proposed, the number that passed; the number that had bi-partisan support; the number of funded bills that met or exceeded goals, and the ways in which the funding in bills was allocated across the states