Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Another Great Way to Fix Congress

It's pretty clear that Congress is broken; they've lost touch with how we "regular" people live their lives, and they tend to get corrupted by the cesspool that is Washington, gaining a sense of entitlement and, in many cases, setting themselves up to get re-elected for life if they so desire. There are a lot of ways to fix this, including term limits and voting out every incumbent, but op-ed writer Ralph Benko of the Washington Examiner came up with a great idea that had never even occurred to me: Let 'em telecommute!
We send our elected representatives far from home to conduct The People’s business. We send them to Washington, D.C. where they form what our flyboys (and flygirls) call “a target-rich environment” for the lobbyists and for the political party leadership.

We send them far from us … to conduct our business. There was no other way in the 18th, 19th, and most of the 20th century. In the 21st century, of course, this is absurd.

As things now stand, it is too easy for lobbyists and party leadership to “get at” our elected legislators. And too hard — impossible, on a concentrated basis — for voters to spend “face time” with their representatives.

We plain folks, and our representatives, would be well-served by changing the rule requiring our legislators to vote from the floor of Congress. And this could be done by a simple rule change, no legislation or constitutional amendment required.
The Constitution simply provides that “a majority of each [chamber] shall constitute a quorum to do business” and does not even specify “present,” much less what that would mean in the 21st century of webcams, Skype, videoconferencing, broadband internet or other technologies out there. The rules of both the House and Senate provide that a quorum is assumed unless a quorum call shows that it is not.
So how would this work? Benko explains:
By a simple rule change, our legislators could give themselves permission to vote from their district offices. Not require it. Simply permit it. From there, they could tele-speak, by Web, and tele-listen, by Web.

Now, they listen by closed circuit TV and speak rarely enough. They could speak more conveniently, and thus more often, by Webcam than they do now, and from home.

In fact, they could invite their constituents to form a “studio audience,” changing the chemistry rather dramatically.) They could make a district office home-base for most of their staff, instead of doing it backwards, as now. (Jobs for constituents! What a concept!)

Travel is such a hassle, the cost of maintaining two homes beyond the reach of most of our legislators. Under such a rule, it is highly likely that a lot of members would vote, more and more often, from their district offices. (Many of their wives, or husbands, would see to it!)

More time in the District means less in D.C., and it would be a lot harder, and more expensive (all that travel!) for the lobbyists to smooth talk them and for party leadership to twist their arms.

At home, they would be much more in touch with the people who they represent. With much less wear and tear.

(Read more at the Washington Examiner:
This sounds perfect to me. If they spend more time around regular people (especially those who voted for them) and less time around lobbyists--and each other--they would turn out to be much more effective at what they were sent to Washington to do in the first place, which is to serve the people--not themselves, as is too often the case nowadays.

Am I missing anything? This sounds like a great idea (for everyone except lobbyists and hardcore partisan "leaders," and I don't care about them, not one whit). Chime in with your own opinion in the comments.

UPDATE: Mr. Benko himself makes an appearance in the comments.


Ralph Benko said...

Thanks for the pickup Kevin! My favorite comment on this op-ed was by one Adam Katz who blogged that he thought this a terrible idea: "The lack of bipartisanship in Congress (and thus ability to get things done) may in fact be a consequence of elected representatives being too attuned to their constituents...."

Too attuned to their constituents? ROFLOL! Elitism runs amok. Restore The Monarchy! ; )

best regards,

Ralph Benko

Kev said...

Ralph, thanks for visiting, and for writing your op-ed in the first place. I think this is as good of an idea as any that have been proposed, and it's obvious that something needs to be done to rein in our elected "representatives"--sooner, rather than later.