Congressmen Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Scott Rigell (R-VA), Jim Cooper (D-TN), and Reid Ribble (R-WI) today appeared together in front of the U.S. Capitol to send a clear message to America: Congress is broken, and we're ready to fix it.
"The American people recognize that Washington is broken," said Congressman Scott Rigell, a Republican from Virginia Beach. "This is underscored by the fact that the 112th Congress has an underwhelming 12 percent approval rating. It is a sobering reality that Congress is, indeed, in need of reform, and it's time we do something about it."
At a press conference Wednesday, Schrader, Rigell, Ribble, and Cooper formally launched the Fix Congress Now Caucus, a small but committed body of like-minded, reform-driven Members -- seasoned and new to Congress. Their mission is simple: "We will identify, agree upon, and move forward legislation and rule changes that will fix this institution to such a degree that we are able to fully meet our deep obligation to our fellow Americans -- and to our children and grandchildren. And we will be bold in our efforts to truly make a difference."
The top priorities of the Caucus are reforming the benefits of Congress, addressing the inefficient and unaccountable budgeting process that leaves the country without a budget year after year, and finally, elevating the debate from the bitter partisanship now rampant in Washington.
As the first practical expression of that goal, the founders, flanked by other Members who have signed on to support their efforts, announced their unanimous support for HR 3643, "No Budget, No Pay,' a bill introduced in the House by Cooper and in the Senate by former House Member Dean Heller of Nevada.
The bill essentially establishes "pay for performance' in Congress. It prohibits payment to any Member of Congress if both houses of Congress have not approved a concurrent resolution on the budget for a fiscal year before October 1 of that fiscal year and have not passed all the regular appropriations bills for the next fiscal year by the same date.
Schrader, a Democrat from Oregon agreed: "One of the fundamental responsibilities of Congress is to designate a fiscally responsible budget for which the Federal government has to operate. If we cannot perform this most basic task, we have no right to be collecting a paycheck from hardworking American taxpayers who rely on us to do so."
"Diagnosis is the first step to treatment," said Cooper, a Democrat from Tennessee who has long advocated for Congressional reform. "So I'm glad my colleagues are recognizing that Congress is broken. By tackling reform, this caucus will push for medicine -- like No Budget, No Pay -- that Congress could actually swallow."
Ribble, a Wisconsin freshman who sits on the House Budget Committee, said: "I ran for office for the same reason that I helped start the Fix Congress Now Caucus. I want to ensure that my children and grandchildren can experience America as it should be: the land of opportunity.
"We want the Fix Congress Now Caucus to be a vehicle to correct the systemic dysfunction that has plagued Washington - regardless of party affiliation," Ribble continued. "If our colleagues on both sides of the aisle stand with us and work toward commonsense solutions, then we can make sure that generations to come have a chance at the American dream."
Rigell also stressed the importance of elevating the tone of the debate in Washington from partisanship rhetoric to a more civil debate.
"We must strive for a civil tone in Washington. In all debates we have here, we must seek the true facts and not question each other's motives," Rigell said. "But do not mistake civility for weakness. Each of us is firmly rooted in our principles, but we are also committed to seeking the common ground that Americans expect us to find to address this nation's great challenges."