Issue Position: Repairing a Dysfunctional Congress
The Congress of the United States is not broken, but it has been crippled by years of neglect.
Ideas for legislation should move through Congress because they are good ideas supported by a majority of the people's representatives, and not because of how they play out to the advantage or disadvantage of the party in power. Unfortunately, that has seldom been the case in recent years.
The situation in congress is described in thoughtful detail in The Broken Branch, a book written by a pair of wise and experienced authors - one each from both a right-wing and a left-wing think tank. The book opens with a description of Speaker Hastert's late-night abuse of House rules, arm-twisting and favor-trading to get the Medicare Prescription drug bill passed. It describes the horror of unelected lobbyists from drug companies writing word-by-word our prescription drug laws while the lives and life savings of thousands of patients hung in the balance. Finally, it describes the corrosive effect of the former Speaker's "Majority of the Majority" rule that so degraded the role of our country's great deliberative body that it seemed at times to reflect not much more than the sociology of a street gang.
And yet, the system is not yet broken. I know from the brief few months working in the office of a dedicated freshman Congressman that individual members can and do make a difference. There is no more powerful or beautiful a statement for our democracy than when two members at opposite ends of the spectrum -- who agree on almost nothing -- find one clear cause on which they can agree, write it down cleanly and logically in a piece of legislation, and steer their newborn idea through the reeds and mud of partisan politics to become the law of our land. A better, fairer, and safer land because of their willingness to put good ideas above party politics.
So, ultimately it comes down to people. While it may be true that there are a very few in congress who have never cared about anything but themselves, most often our country is put at risk by good people who have been in Washington so long that they start confusing their own interests and those of their party with the true interests of our nation. And when that happens, the people of the United States have usually had the good sense to thank their long-serving party and long-serving representatives for their way-too-long service, hand out the gold retirement watches, and rinse the system clean. As much as anything, that is what this election is about.
The Congress must be strengthened one member at a time.