Source: Book TV: Afterwords- U.S. Senator Tom Daschle Interviewing Ira Shapiro: Broken
Warning! This post is for all of you not just political junkies, but Congressional junkie. Which are people with a special type of mental disorder that is worst than simply just being a political junkie. But for people who watch at least one hour of C-SPAN a day and at least one Congressional hearing or part of a hearing each week. You’ll get no news about what rehab the latest hot celebrity is going to and for what for. Or what shoes that person wore when they stopped for coffee in Malibu.
In all seriousness or as serious as I’ll be for this post, the U.S. Senate is broken and needs to be reformed. So does the U.S. House of Representatives by the way ( the lower chamber of Congress ) and I’ll get into a little bit of that with this post as well. But this is really about the Senate ( the upper chamber of Congress ) because it’s so important as an institution because like the court system and the U.S. Justice Department, they’re the only institutions that can hold the President and Executive accountable regardless of which party is in the White House or what the makeup in Congress is both in the House and Senate. And when the Senate doesn’t operate properly because of either hyper-partisanship or one party in the Senate is simply too divided to act, the country suffers and has to live with the gridlock.
Why is Congress both the House and Senate broken? Part of that has to do with the addiction to absolute power that both the Democratic Party and Republican Party has. This consumption to not just control the White House and Congress, but to have such large majorities in both chambers that they wouldn’t have to work with the minority party, especially the minority leadership on anything. I don’t believe it’s so much the leadership’s in both parties that are driving the hyper-partisanship but the hyper-partisan fringe bases that literally see any type of compromise with the other party as treason and an offense that deserves a primary for that member of Congress or the leader, who decided to work with the other party even on need to pass legislation and when the margins in Congress are close.
Another part has to do with gerrymandering both from the Republican Party, but the Democratic Party as well. Not just in Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, where the Republican Party has successfully if not unconstitutionally gerrymandered all of the House districts in those states. But the Democratic Party has done this as well in California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. It’s just that the Republican Party currently controls 34-50 statehouses with a solid majority of individual legislatures all over the country and has been more successful at this what I would I call at least an unconstitutional hyper-partisan policy.
Another contributor to this hyper-partisanship in America has to do with dark money. Where outside groups can give a Senator or Representative, financial contributions to their political campaigns without anyone else knowing about that. Not even their constituents would know where the members of Congress are getting their political money. As well as third-party hyper-partisan groups in both parties who run adds in a state or district in an attempt to push the incumbent or candidate to vote a certain way when their issue is addressed in Congress. Or run ads to make a particular incumbent or candidate look bad and to support their opponent without actually naming the candidate. And these groups don’t have to reveal how they’re funding their political operations and neither do members of Congress.
So what would I do about it? Well like any good responsible doctor ( and I’m not ) before they recommend a prescriptions for their patients physical issues, they first look to see what the problems are and then look to see what can be done about those issues. What I’m doing here is a political diagnosis of Congress, especially the Senate which traditionally has operated and been run through bipartisanship. Where the Minority Leader was almost as important and powerful as the Leader of the Senate.
There are several things that can be done to fix Congress. And trying to make the Senate look like House where the minority party is simply just there to vote against the majority party, like in the House for the most part, which seems to be the goals of current Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, or to try to make the House look like the Senate where you basically need a super majority to pass the most basic pieces of legislation except for reconciliation, wouldn’t work.
The House needs to continue to be the House, otherwise Congressional gridlock will just get even worst. But the House should be more like the Senate at least in this sense. Allow for the minority party under the leadership of the Minority Leader, to offer relevant amendments and alternatives to all legislation in the House. Both in committee and on the floor. The majority party would still not have to work with the minority party, but at least the minority would be able to debate, offer amendments and alternatives, and get votes on those proposals.
Reform if not eliminate the Senate filibuster. Right now even amendments to bills can be filibustered and blocked in the Senate. If you keep the filibuster, only limit it to the final passage of bills after debate and voting on amendments have been completed.
Allow the minority party under the leadership of the Minority Leader, to offer amendments to all bills that come to committee and make it to the floor for debate and consideration. Eliminate the filibuster, but replace it with a tabling motion that could only be made by the Leader and Minority Leader, that could only be offered at the end of debate on legislation. Which would take 60 votes to overrule the tabling motion. Which means the Senate along with the judiciary and the U.S. Justice Department, will continue to serve as checks on executive power regardless of which party is in power and if they have complete power with Control over Congress as well. But the Senate and House as well, would be able to get back to debating and legislating. Offering other ideas and alternatives as well.
Amendments and alternatives to bills, could no longer be filibustered or even tabled with this new set of Senate rules. But either floor manager ( the Chairman or Ranking Member of the committee ) could mark amendments that don’t have bipartisan co-sponsors as controversial. Amendments that are simply design to weaken or defeat bills. And the member with the controversial amendment could appeal to the chair and their amendment would then need 60 votes to pass, instead of 51. But they would still get their amendment voted on.
Eliminate gerrymandering of all U.S. House districts, as well as all state legislative districts in the country. Which will vote out the hyper-partisans on the Far-Right and Far-Left in America. Those people would be replaced by center-right Republicans and Center-Left Democrats. And these Representative’s would then have political incentive to work with members of the other party and even vote with them from time to time.
Pass a Federal complete disclosure act of all political contributions to all Federal campaigns. For all Federal incumbents and candidates, but all third-party groups would also have to disclose under Federal law how they’re paying for their political operations. Where they’re getting their money and have no loopholes in this disclosure act. American voters would then be able to see where their members of Congress, as well as their President, is getting their political money. When they see a third-party political ad on TV, they’ll see where that group is getting their money.
Don’t see commonsense bipartisan proposals and plans ever passing in Congress and don’t expect an approach to how Congress operates like this anytime soon. Not until the U.S. Supreme Court outlaws gerrymandering at least. Unless Americans voters make this an import issue and you start seeing rallies around the country calling for the end of hyper-partisanship in Congress. But if you want to fix Congress, especially the Senate, but the House as well, this would be an approach that could accomplish that.