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Sat Sep 29, 2012, 02:17 AM

A better "Congressional Reform Act"

There is floating around the Internets a made-up, far-right-wing "Congressional Reform Act" that...well, it basically says we should treat our Congressmen like shit because being in Congress is an honor.

One of the things it says is when the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution they intended for Congressmen to serve their terms then go home. The reality was, in 1800 the average life expectancy was 40 years...so, in other words, the Founding Fathers intended for Congressmen to die in office. Since these days a Congressman who dies in office either skies full-blast into a tree like Sonny Bono did or keels over at the tender age of 90, things are a little different now.

So...with all due respect to our teabag-wearing brethren, let us reform Congress so we get the kind of people we want to be congress members in there.

And the first thing we have to accept is that we are asking people with the skill set to be executive vice presidents at any Fortune 500 corporation to accept pay slightly better than a Home Depot store manager earns. Serving in Congress might be an honor, but no one we actually want as our leader is going to accept an honor that comes with that much of a pay cut. This is how you get the Michele Bachmanns, Todd Akins and Raul Labradors of the world to sign up for multiple stints in Washington.

So, without further ado...

1. We pay House members $750,000 per year and Senators $1 million. The President gets $1.5 million. Now, out of that amount the electee has to pay for his or her office expenses, and for staff above a "reasonable" amount. What we will consider reasonable depends on the representative but if the representative from Alaska decides she needs 90 staffers to answer constituent complaints, she can pay for some of it. OTOH, if the member runs a nice tight ship their paychecks will be nice and fat.

2. We build 535 homes in a development in either Virginia or Maryland and issue one rent-free to each Congress-critter. Some companies give their executives company housing and since we are trying to get the best people, not just the people who can afford two homes, it's a logical benefit. A side benefit of this is we can put a fence around it and assign a company of Military Police to guard it, enhancing their personal safety. This will keep these guys from claiming that their housing expenses in the DC area are so high they can't afford a house in their own district like Man-on-Dog did when he was Pennsylvania's senator. It will also help ensure they go the fuck home when their constituents have had enough of their shit, and don't immediately run to K Street looking for jobs. These will be nice but not ostentatious, suitable for entertaining but not suitable for royalty. (And there's at least one general contractor in Virginia who'd love to have the work.)

2a. And with that in mind, the member must own a residence in his or her district. If we're paying these people the kind of bucks I'm suggesting, they can afford it. If they are renters when they are elected, they have six months to buy a suitable house--mansions are not required or encouraged, mobile homes, houseboats and $10,000 run-down shacks are not allowed. Condos and townhomes are okay if the member is into that kind of thing.

3. We change the term of office for Representatives to coincide with the term of the president. The original intent was to let the voters vote the assholes out quick, but in the 21st Century Congress-critters have a reelection rate somewhere between 90 and 95 percent. Since we're stuck with the fuckers ANYWAY, we need to head off any further debacles like the teabagger revolution of 2010 that put 70 people in Congress who only wanted to go there to stop the president from getting anything done. Senators will remain on their current six-year terms.

4. I think you've heard the old joke about requiring Congressmen to wear racing firesuits covered with the logos of their campaign contributors. Firesuits SUCK as daily wear and they're unbelievably expensive besides, so I won't ask them to wear one. There would, however, be no impediment to requiring the networks, who put a bar across the screen with the member's name, party and state, to display the logos of a member's top 10 campaign contributors across the bottom of the screen when the member is on TV. In print, the phrase "whose top three major contributors are X, Y and Z"--in print we don't have as much room as they do on TV--will be substituted.

5. Members will have a "waiting period" between Congressional service and taking lobbyist jobs of one year per term served for House members and two years per term served for Senators.

6. Members will be required, within one year of taking office, to take a position of at least one block of 100 shares of stock in several companies headquartered or conducting major operations within their state, and to sell stock they hold in companies not affiliated with their state. If we send the bastards to Congress to do good for their constituents, let's make them get some skin in the game. How many companies the member has to invest in will depend on what state they're from. If they're from Wyoming, where there aren't very many companies, they'll have to buy stock in every company in the state. If they're from New York, they can choose 50 companies in a wide variety of industries and call it good. Members should give preference to companies within their own districts. They will be required to hold this stock the entire time they are in office; if a company they hold goes under or gets Romneyed they will be required to buy into another company if there are other companies in the state to invest in. (It is obvious that if there are 55 stock-issuing companies in your state, you have a block of them all, and one goes out of business you can't be forced to buy stock in another company because there isn't one. If there are 55,000 stock-issuing companies in your state, that's a different thing altogether. Let's be nice and say a Congressman can sell stock if the money is rolled into another company immediately--there are lots of reasons out of the control of a Congressman for a company's stock to go down, and we don't want these guys to get hurt unnecessarily...because if we screw enough congress critters on stock the good people we want in office will quit running.)

7. No Congress member may accept campaign contributions from out of state. I know donating to Democrats across state lines is a time honored tradition on DU, but consider: if you or I can contribute to Claire McCaskill, the Koch brothers can contribute to Todd Akin.

8. Campaign season starts at 8:01 a.m. in their district, as reported on the time display of a cellular phone subscribed to AT&T*, 90 days before the election. If a candidate allows ads to run, actively raises funds (this means doing appearances and mailings, not putting a "click here to donate" button on a website or accepting unsolicited donations), or makes campaign appearances before then, the candidate will be instantly removed from office, disqualified from ever serving again, flown home in a C-130 with the cargo door open the whole way--if you've never been in one, consider yourself lucky--dumped off 20 miles outside of town in the middle of the night and forced to walk home. Non-incumbents will get only the disqualification and the night stroll. Congress and the President are allowed to stop work one month before the election to devote themselves to campaigning. The six-month whistlestop thing had to be done when politicians campaigned by train. Most of the politicians we have today haven't ever been on one. Besides, we have teleconferencing now that will allow any politician to stump from Washington--two guys in a blue van with a Barco projector and a PA system could do what we must have politicians flying all over the fucking place do now. Let 'em give speeches on big-screen TV until a month out, then let them go to their districts and glad-hand.
* The only reason I specify the carrier is to ensure that everyone has the exact same time on their clocks.

9. No candidate can run a negative ad that doesn't explain why the candidate running the ad is better. Violation of this policy will result in the candidate being charged for a positive ad for his or her opponent. Don't just tell me Senator Beetle Bailey voted to end Medicare, tell me how Candidate Orville Snorkel will strengthen it. Candidates must present all print ads and logos for approval. Ads for Republicans may not use blue as their main color; ads for Democrats may not be red. They may use those colors as accents, but not the main color in the piece. Colors besides blue and red may be used freely. Candidates will still be allowed to lie in their ads, because if they weren't Republicans couldn't advertise at all. If they do, and the lie can be proven as such, the candidate gets to pay for one opposition ad correcting it.

10. Congressmen, Senators and the president get 30 days of leave per year, same as the military, and they will take it in two blocks: the two weeks straddling Independence Day and the two weeks straddling Christmas. This is not a slight against non-Christians; half the country shuts down at the end of the year so it would be a good time for Official Washington to do the same. Non-Christian politicians will be given five holy days off, and Christian politicians will receive five comp days of their choosing because that's fair, right? If we're paying these guys to work, they can show up like the rest of us do.

11. Each party gets to filibuster five bills and twelve judges per Congress. Use them wisely. The Constitution says bills pass with a majority; in my neck of the woods "majority" is one more than half, not three-fifths. Filibustering bills after you have reached your limit automatically passes the bills. Filibustering more than twelve judges means that a panel of sitting judges, divided equally between Democratic and Republican-appointed judges and headed by a Supreme Court Justice who is there only to break ties (and the Justice will alternate for each judge evaluation between a liberal and a conservative Justice), will evaluate and seat judges for a period of one year, or until the President and Senate grow up.

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