Okay the election is over and it is time for our politicians to walk the talk. It’s time for them to put their money where their mouth is. It’s time to stop spouting platitudes like these and actually get something done.
If any local government officials want to take this message to heart, that is great, but I’m thinking primarily about our federal representatives.
I’ve been waiting for the campaigning to be over to see what our newly reelected Congressman Rick Nolan does with the resolution he introduced in the waning days of the last session of the House of Representatives. His Restore Democracy resolution was a key piece of his campaign message. While touring the state to gather votes, he said time and again that Congress has become a very “undemocratic institution.”
I heard him talking about the unproductivity of the current Congress when he visited Cook County in August. I think he was sincere in his frustration with the way the system currently works. At that time he said most congressional representatives spend hours every week in call centers, fundraising for the next campaign.
Nolan said things in Washington, D.C. had changed drastically from when he served as Minnesota representative 30 years ago. He said in his early days as a legislator there was a spirit of bipartisan cooperation—and things got done.
Nolan said in those days bills were read thoroughly and discussed and debated in committees, with 7 – 8,000 hearings and subcommittees each year. In that August meeting in Cook County, Nolan said the 113th Congress had only 500 committee meetings. He said what that means is that all the members of Congress don’t get a chance to share their concerns or offer suggestions. He said bills are brought to the House floor to be voted on without having been read by more than a handful of representatives.
He summed up the discussion at the August luncheon with a statement he repeated over and over as he worked his way across the district campaigning, “We’ve got to change the way we do politics in this country if we want a Congress that works and a government that isn’t broken.”
Nolan’s Restore Democracy resolution is a start. The resolution has four tenets: 1.) The House and Senate will work five days a week, on the same schedule; 2.) Every bill brought to the House floor will have an ‘open rule’ allowing for amendments and full debate; 3.) No bill or resolution can be brought to the House floor without first being heard in committee, with amendments permitted and voted on before the bill is passed, and 4.) The House can consider no conference committee report unless the committee has met at least three times with all members present and resolved all differences by vote. The conference report must be available to all members at least 72 hours before the vote.
The resolution introduces common sense ideas that should be in place. The problem is that it is only a resolution, not a bill. Hopefully Nolan is serious and he pushes ahead with the Restore Democracy Act. Hopefully he finds likeminded representatives who will co-sponsor the bill and move it through committee and to the Senate.
Taking a look www.Congress.Gov is disheartening. The website lists hundreds of bills that are in limbo.
Important pieces of legislation that would benefit American citizens such as HR 2692 Saving America’s Pollinators Act of 2013, which would restrict the use of neonicotinoid insecticides and evaluate the health of America’s bees or HR 2485 Helping Homeless Veterans Act of 2013, which would fund the Department of Veterans Affairs counseling and veteran reintegration programs.
There are bills that could save tax dollars such as HR 2643 Stay in Place, Cut the Waste Act of 2013, which would require federal agencies to reduce travel expenses by the use of video conferencing.
And there are bills that would directly benefit families, such as HR 1527 Student Loan Interest Deduction Act of 2013, which would increase the tax deduction for interest paid on education loans or HR 769 Child Tax Credit Permanency Act of 2013 which would make permanent the child tax credit and would require an annual inflation adjustment.
There are many, many, more. All important. All waiting for our legislators to move forward. It’s time for Congressman Nolan and his colleagues—on both sides of the aisle—to fulfill those campaign promises.
Can any of you seriously say
the Bill of Rights could get
through Congress today?
It wouldn’t even get out of
F. Lee Bailey