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Paul Ryan should fight for these Congressional reforms

October 21, 2015

Congressional deadlock2Mickey Edwards (R-OK) served in Congress from 1977 to 1993, but has since concluded that political parties are the “cancer at the heart of our democracy”.

“Ours has become a system focused not on collective problem-solving but on a struggle for power between two private organizations — the political parties,” he writes.

His book, The Parties Versus The People: how to turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans offers a number of ideas for reforming Congress.  Among my favorites:

  1. Restore democracy to Congress.
  • Secret ballot for Speaker so each member could vote for the person they feel best suited to the job without fear of “crossing the party”. (Need not be a member of Congress.)
  • Speaker must receive the support of at least 60% of the members of the House. (Would require candidates for Speaker to reach across party lines with promises of cooperation, fairness.)
  • Make the House Rules Committee strictly bipartisan, with both parties equally represented.
  • Provide that any amendment that has at least 100 cosponsors would be permitted a public hearing in committee, with supporting witnesses, and then a full and open discussion and recorded vote on the House floor.
  • Require that more than one senator must publicly support a “hold” or filibuster (perhaps three or six?) for it be become effective, and that their names be disclosed.
  • Require all supporters of a Senate filibuster to do so in person, and to speak to the issue (not read recipes).
  • Require 67 votes to cut off a Senate filibuster for the first 3 days, 60 votes for the next 4 days, 58 votes for the next 3 days, 55 votes for the next two days, and 50 votes after 12 days

2. Establish nonpartisan congressional committees.

  • Chair from majority but vice chair from minority and empowered to bring a bill forward and invite expert witnesses to testify.
  • Choose committee members by lot or by seniority (and thus not beholden to party leaders).
  • Choose staff solely on the basis of professional qualifications. (Selected by a nonpartisan administrator to serve all committee members without regard to party agenda.

3. Eliminate the trappings of partisanship.

  • Eliminate the aisle and seat members by seniority within the institution (not seniority within the party).
  • Let the leaders of each party sit beside one another, not at opposite ends of a great divide.
  • In the House, end the practice of separate lecterns; place a single lectern dead center in the front of the chamber.
  • Bipartisan retreats so members can get to know one another as human beings, including at committee level.  Each individual introduces self as a person: their families, where they’re from, why they entered politics, what is important to them.
4 Comments
  1. Robert Rogers permalink

    Commonsensical, levelheaded, and practical these changes would seem to be. Why won’t they happen? Or, why won’t some, or just one, of these prescriptions come about? I don’t know the answer, but do know the odds of any of these recommendations being adopted are slim to none.

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  2. Your are right. It won’t happen easily because gridlock has become a major profit center for politicians of both parties. But great changes come about only at times of crisis, and we may be headed for just such a crisis. When it happens, citizens had better to prepared to demand sensible solutions. I’m hoping this book and blog will be a useful resource for citizens.

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  3. Mike Ruddell permalink

    Good plan, good intentions. The problem is partizan politics profits both parties. One the reasons we have a lot of crony capitalism.

    Like

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