Do Nothing Congress
Our lawmaking policies and procedures are causing the process to be inefficient and ineffective. Our lawmaking process is the engine that drives our government, so fixing the problems of the House and Senate must be a top priority. We should address the procedural issues affecting our lawmaking process and the underlying election structure. I believe we have simple solutions to these issues, and most of them can be implemented now.
Senators currently serve a six year term, while Representatives serve a two year term. All members of Congress should serve a four year term. It makes absolutely no sense to have a two year term for Representatives since primaries and re-election campaigns consume the entire second year of a two year term. The six year term of Senators, along with two year terms for House members, create the need for mid-term elections.
All members of Congress should have their election day on the same day as the Presidential election instead of having off-year elections. Off-year elections never receive as much participation from voters, even though those elections are equally important. The best way to increase voter participation in every Congressional district is to eliminate the need for mid-term elections.
Every member of Congress should be subject to term limits. A maximum of three terms, or 12 years, should be the maximum allowable term of office. I realize this will be a difficult bill to pass, so we'll need to include a grandfather clause which exempts all current elected members of Congress, otherwise it will never become law.
Federal election day and primary day should be federal holidays. We will never achieve a reasonable amount of voter participation as long as employers control access to the voting process.
We should improve the voting process by implementing modern technology to eliminate paper ballots and complicated voting machines. Any voter with a smart phone or other device should be able to download their ballot before election day, select a candidate or position on an issue, then submit that ballot electronically at their local polling place on election day. This will greatly reduce wait times at polling places, increase accuracy in the election process, and eliminate the cost of ballots and voting machines.
These improvements in the voting process should minimize the need for early and absentee voting which are easier to manipulate and subject to voter fraud. Voters shouldn’t be allowed to “vote early and vote often”. Folks who died years ago shouldn’t be able to cast a vote in the current election cycle. Early and absentee votes, except military personnel, should only be counted if the results of in-person voting indicate a difference of one percent or less. In other words, if you don't get out and vote on election day, your vote only counts if it's a close race. Military personnel who are deployed will still be allowed to vote absentee and their votes will be included along with election day polling totals.
We should create a federal voter registry based on Social Security numbers to circumvent voter suppression laws passed by certain states. Voter fraud can also be minimized by creating a standard list of registered voters for federal offices. This will also allow students, or anyone who has recently moved from one state to another, to participate in federal elections regardless of the timing of the move, or state-imposed deadlines for registration. This federal voter registry will only apply to federal elections, each individual state can still impose their own regulations regarding the election of state and local officials, as well as approved voter lists.
Voting districts should follow established county and city boundary lines for federal election purposes. Gerrymandering will still be acceptable for any state regarding their statewide and other election cycles, but Congress should not be subject to this corrupting influence. District lines for U.S. House seats should include all citizens within a city or county, not removing one or two neighborhoods to be included with a distant group of voters, thereby shifting political power towards one political party over another.
Neither Congress nor the voters who elected them can have a meaningful discussion about upcoming legislation if said legislation is thousands of pages in length. We should limit all new bills to a maximum of 5 pages. The Declaration of Independence is only 4 pages, and the Constitution is 20 pages. If our nation was built on less than 25 pages, why should we have bills that are thousands of pages in length? Limiting the length of bills will encourage more public participation and discussion, as well as providing accountability for lawmakers.
Amendments should only be allowed for issues directly related to the underlying legislation. A lawmaker should not be able to attach the cost of “a bridge to nowhere” when Congress is voting on extending the debt ceiling. Amendments should always be allowed, both in the House and Senate.
Every elected lawmaker should be required to vote every time a vote has been ordered. Lawmakers who fail to vote should be subject to substantial monetary fines, and repeat offenders should lose their right to vote on any issue for the remainder of their term.
We should never have a shutdown of our government for any reason. We should never allow our government to default on it's debts, or give the appearance that our creditworthiness is less than perfect. If members of Congress fail to pass required legislation in a timely manner resulting in a government shutdown, every member of Congress should be fined $50,000 per day for each day of government shutdown. We cannot continue to allow a few elected officials to hold our nation hostage as they promote their individual agendas.
The House should follow a regular schedule of legislative activity instead of using crisis management as a method of operation. Debate and voting on upcoming legislation should be scheduled well in advance, allowing time for everyone to read and discuss each piece of legislation before the bill hits the House floor. Maintaining a regular schedule of debate, voting, as well as other activities helps lawmakers make the best use of their time between legislative activities and constituent services.
For full details about how to fix our Do Nothing Congress, please read my book "I Can Rebuild America: The 21st Century Contract With America" available now at Amazon.