A US Senate and House of Representatives That Work for Us
“If we … do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to … achieve our country…” – James Baldwin
This newsletter is part of our reconstructing American government series. In prior issues, we called for a new Federalism, an innovative public service model, law enforcement reform and decentralizing federal agencies. This week, we challenge the federal government—and citizens—to reform Congress.
Americans are fed up with Congressional showboating, gridlock and inertia—and they should be. But, if we can complain, we can vote.
Early in the pandemic, our federal legislators—the Senate and House of Representatives—took historic action to protect our nation. Regrettably, bipartisanship is all too rare, reserved for crises (and the ability to print more money and incur more debt) and occasional moments of political theater.
As Covid-19 deaths exceed 205,000 and Western fires rage, the Senate fiddles.
What can be done to make Congress work better, anticipate future risks and solve big problems?
Congress can act swiftly, especially when it involves an issue they care about (e.g., filling a Supreme Court vacancy). But, why is Congress so skilled at obfuscation, delay and avoidance? When will our nation run out of tomorrows? And when will we expect more of our elected representatives?
We must reform Congress before it abdicates any more of its Constitutional duties to the executive branch. And if Congress won’t do it, we must.
We have much to do if we are to reconstruct America. But, we will achieve little if we fail to reform Congress. We need a more representative, empathetic and productive Congress. And Congress needs adequate resources, especially for addressing long-term issues. Realigned committees for improving oversight. More effective rules for compelling civil debate and producing real solutions. A modern budget management process that will force Congress to make tough decisions.
This week, we will present our ideas in more detail. You can learn more about reconstructing government at Civic Way.
- New Zealand’s parliament began in 1854 with two chambers, but abolished its upper chamber in 1951. Other nations with unicameral legislatures include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Israel, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Taiwan.
- Finland requires regular foresight studies by law and the Prime Minister’s office issues a Government Future Report on long-term prospects and targets to the parliament’s Committee for the Future at least once per term
- Iceland enacted the Public Finance Act to mandate the submittal of megatrends analyses to the parliament and the Prime Minister created a Futures Committee
- South Korea created the National Assembly Futures Institute under the direction of the Chairman of the National Assembly
- Renewing Congress, A Second Report, Thomas Mann & Norm Ornstein, Brookings Institution
- 3 reforms for repairing Congress, the ‘broken branch’, Adam Carrington, The Hill
- OK, So the House Wants to Reform Itself? Here’s what it should really do, Casey Burgat & Kevin Kosar, Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group
- “Bright Spot” Bipartisan Modernization Committee Caps Off Work with 40 Final Recommendations, Mark Strand, Congressional Institute Sep 9, 2020 https://www.congressionalinstitute.org/2020/09/25/bright-spot-bipartisan-modernization-committee-caps-off-work-with-40-final-recommendations/
- 10 Far-Reaching Congressional Ethics Reforms to Strengthen U.S. Democracy, Michael Sozan & William Roberts, Center for American Progress
- Strategic Foresight for Better Policies, Building Effective Governance in the Face of Uncertain Futures, OECD
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