Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fixing Congress - Step One

Congress needs a fix.  I think I know the first step.  Make all members of the House of Representative and the Senate have the same term length.  In case you didn't know, members of the House have two year terms, while Senators are elected for six years. Currently the entire House of Representatives and one third of the Senate is up for election every two years. 

When I am King, they will all be up for election every four years. If you want to throw out the whole government, you'll have your chance.  But, you should get two or three years of  service before the re-election cycle starts.  Currently, members of the House start running for re-election as soon as their election is over.  On the other hand, Senators tend to take a four year nap before they start their re-election campaign.

The major focus of Congress should be passing important pieces of legislation, not pandering to special interest groups. No one can run a four year election campaign -- they'll bomb out due to over exposure.  Hopefully this will force them to do some work in the first few years of their term.  If not, throw the bums out.

Another side benefit of everyone having the same term length is we'll save a boat load of money.  With half as many elections, the savings will be in the billions.  Who said liberals can't cut spending.


  1. Very good post! One thing to think about is the fact that the Senate and House have different procedural processes. If anything we should have election reform. In England elections only last 1 month!

  2. That's why I called "Step I" - I have a lot of other ideas to follow.

  3. Came here via a certain other blogger you may or may not know about. I do like your ideas for Senatorial reform; I think it’s rather absurd to have such seemingly random term lengths, especially with such large gaps. Indeed, make them all 4 years long; I’d personally add indefinite reelection possibilities, including for President. (Seems like a shame if a good one has to step down, only to be replaced by a dolt, because of regulations as opposed to any lack of competency.)

  4. @Joe I disagree - it seems that the majority of the muppets you have in congress have been there forever and a day. Your founders never intended politics to become the career it has - so why not limit terms to no more than 2 or 3 terms consecutively? Gives you fresh faces/ideas fairly regularly, but doesn't prohibit the possibility of someone who is really quite good coming back into government somewhere down the line.

    (Of course, i am commenting from NZ, where we have triennial elections for all our unicameral parliament using a proportional representation election system. The prime minister is whomever can count of the backing of the majority of parliament. My world view of politics is somewhat unamerican...)

  5. @Andrew —
    Actually, I’m Canadian. ;-) Not that it means much as I know virtually nothing of Canadian politics; my interest is south of the border.

    And I don’t think that age and number of terms served should be a requirement for stepping down. I’ll take an 80-year-old, 20-term Representative over some young wingnut newbie anyday. Why force good politicians out (when they are good … they do exist!) if they can still do good, only to replace then with a potential fool who could screw stuff up instead?

  6. Erm … that should’ve read “I’ll take an 80-year-old, 20-term Representative who can do his/her job well over some young wingnut newbie anyday”.

  7. I don't know about having them all up for reelection at the same time, but there's no doubt that a two year term just isn't long enough anymore.

  8. Good posts that I enjoyed reading. Jen made some comments about how well you know your way around a computer, for a "64 yo", but you're still younger than I am. I'll bookmark this and be back.

  9. make them all wear logos on there suits like NASCAR drivers do then we will know who they really represent

    For years I was represented by Bill Fisk the Senator from Health Care Corp of America. Do you know who owns your Congressman or Senator?

    A whole heard of new crazies at the same time? I hope not.

  10. I can see the value of having one chamber with a longer term than the other. I'm British, and I definitely support moving to an elected upper chamber here (rather than the currently-unelected House of Lords), but I want the period before re-election to be much longer, or even have no re-election. I'd support a system of staggered election, pretty long terms (maybe even as long as 10 years), and no re-election allowed. I don't know that that would work in the US case, but for the UK I think it would be very valuable. The advantage would be that there would be people with legislative influence who don't have to worry about being re-elected. Put some sort of recall power in place so constituents can get rid of someone who goes completely nuts or disregards their election policies completely (or both), but save the elected representative from having to accommodate the incredibly inconsistent, often vociferous, moronic opinions of the masses every few years.

    To go even better, ban party politics from the upper chamber. Let people elect individuals.

  11. I doubt any change in electoral system would make much of a difference. Remember that everybody is a special interest. Special interests include the elderly (don't touch my Social Security), teachers (more education funding), unions (employee "free choice" act), all taxpayers (I'm paying too much), etc. So long as the Federal Government can give out goodies, and cannot give out unlimited goodies, there will be politicians pandering to special interests.

    To have a system where Congress only deals with important legislation and isn't beholden to special interests, voters need to replace politicians who "bring home the bacon", such as bragging about the number of jobs they created in their district (as opposed to the nation as a whole) or bringing in government money for roads in their district, etc. When voters judge politicians on major issues rather than how much money they bring home, we might see a real change.

    One of my pet peeves is the "service" provided by members of Congress to help people with the Federal bureaucracy. Every time a congressional office resolves a social security problem, late passport, etc. it is a failure of the Federal Government, not a congressional service. But I doubt Congress would allow the bureaucracy to be truly fixed because we'd no longer need the "service".