Four Quick Fixes For a Better Congress – An Excerpt From A Better Congress by Joseph Gibson


"I love these members that get up and say, 'Read the bill!' Well, what good is reading the bill if it's a thousand pages and you don't have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you've read the bill?" -- Rep. John Conyers, Jr. On reading the 2010 health care reform bill (1)"I don't think you want me to waste my time to read every page of the health care bill. You know why? It's statutory language. We hire experts." -- Sen. Max Baucus On reading the 2010 health care reform bill (2)Congress has gotten into a lot of trouble with the public because members often do not understand the bills they are considering. As the quotes above make clear, even some of the key players did not read the health care reform bill passed in 2010. In the midst of the debate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed to discourage the public from reading it.

Speaking before a group of local government officials, she said: "But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy." (3) Nor is this issue confined to Democrats. When Republicans controlled Congress, they too passed many complicated bills that few members had the time to read or understand.Basic common sense dictates that members cannot make an informed choice about how to vote on bills if they have not read or understood them. But how can we get them to do that? Under the current way of doing business, they do not seem to have any inclination to do so.Congress could lighten its reading load by restricting the number of bills introduced. In the 110th Congress that met in 2007-08, representatives introduced 7,340 bills or about seventeen per member. Senators introduced 3,741 bills, or about thirty-seven per member. (4) Yet, only 460 of those 11,081 bills (about 4 percent) became law, and over a third of those were purely honorary in nature. Drafting and working on all of those bills consumes staff time and other resources. Given these figures, it sounds like Congress could probably make do with fewer introduced bills.Both chambers could limit each member to introducing ten bills per Congress.

Not all members would use their allocation, and they could be allowed to pass them to other members who may want to introduce more than ten bills. A monetary bonus could also be paid for not using the entire allocation. Having this kind of rule would force members to focus on the legislation that they really want to pass. It would also save the resources expended on all the other bills that are now introduced and quickly forgotten. Members could freely use their government web sites to post drafts on which they may want to seek public comment without using up their allocations.Both chambers could also require that bills be drafted in plain English. As this book was being written, Congress enacted the "Plain Writing Act of 2010." (5) It required all executive branch agencies to use plain English in their documents. Sadly, Congress did not apply the same requirement to its documents. If it did, that would lighten the load for members.As the quotes from Representative Conyers and Senator Baucus illustrate, members find current bill language dense and difficult to understand. If bills were drafted in clearer language, perhaps more members would read and understand them. If the bills then became law, the public might understand them better as well. Of the 460 public laws passed during 2007-08, seventeen were technical corrections bills that fixed drafting mistakes in prior laws -- that Congress needed to pass so many of these bills illustrates the problems that complexity introduces.The comments of Representative Conyers, Senator Baucus, and Speaker Pelosi also show that members do not read and understand bills because they are too long. The final version of the health care reform bill ran to over 2,400 pages in bill form. (6) To even contemplate reading through it numbs the mind. Its sheer length belies the notion that any single member actually read it or understood it. Yet bills of extreme length are increasingly common. The financial services reform bill passed in the summer of 2010 ran to more than 1,600 pages in bill form. (7) Republicans were equally guilty of this kind of excess when they ran Congress.Both chambers could limit bills to a reasonable number of pages. One hundred pages seems like a reasonable number. If there were just a flat prohibition on the number of pages in introduced bills, members could game that requirement by adding amendments.

Leaders could address this in a couple of ways. One would be to announce that they will not bring bills to the floor unless the bill, with its amendments, is less than one hundred pages. Another way would be to require separate votes for each one hundred pages. In either case, the point is to bring the proposal down to a digestible size so that members actually make an informed choice when they vote and can be held accountable for their votes.Those requirements will make little difference unless the rules also require an adequate time to read the bills. House Republican leader John Boehner suggested during the 2010 midterm campaign that no bill be brought up until it had been available to members for seventy-two hours. That seems like a reasonable time. If it were enforced, no member could use lack of time as an excuse for not reading the bills.All of these common sense reforms could easily be embodied in rules of the chamber or leadership policies. Getting members to actually read the bills and understand them is another matter entirely. It is not clear how either chamber could realistically enforce such a rule or policy. However, it could be made into campaign fodder. A party could encourage its members to take a campaign pledge to read and understand every bill they vote on. It would be hard for an opponent not to make the same pledge. We would have to rely on the candidates' honor that they are actually doing so. But if they did not, they would certainly face embarrassing questions from the media when they broke it.The changes suggested in this chapter are relatively easy to enact, but they would make a world of difference in how Congress operates. Had they been in effect, it is likely that we would have had a much simpler and easier to understand health care reform bill and that the public would be much happier with the product.Endnotes1. The video of this quote is available on YouTube, "John Conyers on Reading the Healthcare Bill."2. The quote was reported in "Libby Residents Relate Gains, Drawbacks of Asbestos Aid," by Dan Testa, (Kalispell, MT) Flathead Beacon, August 24, 2010.3. Her prepared remarks are available as "Pelosi Remarks at the 2010 Legislative Conference for National Association of Counties," Press Release from the Office of the Speaker of the House, March 9, 2010.4. These figures do not include joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions, or sim- ple resolutions. For more on these types of legislation, see Congressional Deskbook, ???????? 11.20, 11.30. For an explanation of how these numbers were derived, see Appendix A.5. Pub. L. No. 111-274, 124 Stat. 2861 (2010). Prior to the passage of H.R. 946 (2010), efforts to get members of the executive branch to use plain English had gone on for a number of years, but they had been somewhat sporadic. See "A History of Plain Language in the United States Government (2004)," by Joanne Locke, ; President Clinton signed a memorandum encouraging the use of plain English in the executive branch in 1998, "Executive Memorandum of June 1, 1998 -- Plain Language in Government Writing," Federal Register Volume 63, Number 111, FR Doc No: 98-15700.6. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (2010).7. Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 111- 203, 124 Stat. 1376 (2010).

The Central Government Has Done Whatever it Was Able to do For The Development of Uttar Pradesh.


19 April 2007 "The graph of the Congress Party is going up very fast. It is getting stronger by the day. Till recently, no one took Congress seriously, but now it's in the fight on many seats. Rahul Gandhi's entry has changed the scenario," commented Md.Hasim of Nanpara. Iqbal Advocate echoed similar sentiments. Rahul Gandhi's entry has given a reason to the Muslims to get back to the Congress. They have started to have faith in Congress again. In the times to come Congress will do well, he said. Shiv Balak Giri went into the past when he saw Rahul Gandhi. "I don't remember the time exactly, but once Indiraji came in the area to inaugurate a bridge in Jaalim Nagar. Then he is the first one to come. We have seen a Gandhi after a long time", he said. Rahul Gandhi received a rousing welcome at Motipur, Nanpara. The huge crowd went over board to welcome the leader. And they were full of praise for Mr Gandhi too. Mr Gandhi once again took the opportunity to hit it hard on the Mulayam Singh Yadav Government for its non-performance and insensitivity. He also came down from the dais to mingle with the people. "The only thing which has developed in Uttar Pradesh in the last fifteen years is Gundagardi. Nothing else has developed.

The wheels of development in the state has come to a halt, courtesy the state governments for the last fifteen years," he said speaking at a public meeting at Motipur, Nanpara. Earlier, he addressed a public meeting at Bhinga also. "The central government has done whatever it was able to do for the development of Uttar Pradesh. 40 per cent of the money in Uttar Pradesh comes from the centre. Yet development is nowhere to be seen. Both the Prime Minister and the Congress President have worked hard and have sent as much central funds to Uttar Pradesh as was possible. But the state government looted all the money," said Rahul Gandhi taking a dig at the under development of the state at Bhinga. "Where is the development, the roads are the same as it where fifteen years ago, same is the condition of hospitals, employment, basic amenities and whatever counts for development. They have just cheated you, promised you so many things and delivered none," he added. "We have full faith in Rahulji, not only because he speaks good. We know that he has developed his own constituency.

He has done so much there. We expect him to do the same for the whole state, so we are going to support him", said Dhanraj, a resident of Bhinga. Earlier, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi kicked off his fifth leg of campaign for the Uttar Pradesh assembly election on Thursday. His first destination was Tulsipur, Shivpura in Balrampur district. "Wherever I will go I will encourage the youth, I will work for them, I will ask them to come ahead. I am here to ask them to come ahead, cause they are the one who can bring change. I am ready to work with them on all fronts and at all the time, its not only for the elections, I am here for a long time. Elections or no election, I will work with you to transform the state in a model state once again," said Rahul Gandhi addressing a mammoth public meeting at Tulsipur, Shivpura in Balrampur district. "You know the situation in Uttar Pradesh and you also know the kind of governments which are ruling you. They are not working. For the last fifteen years, you are being cheated. They come to you, seek your vote and don't do anything for you. They have divided you in the name of caste and religion," he added. "No one has worked for the Aam Aadmi as much as Indiraji did. She worked for the masses of the country," he said talking about the development during the tenure of former Prime Minister Late Smt.Indira Gandhi. "Wherever I go---Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab people of Uttar Pradesh are marching ahead, they are contributing in the development of the respective states. When they are doing so good there, why isn't it the same for their home state? The reason is very simple, the state government is not letting you work, and they have tied your hands," he said blasting off the state government. "Prime Minister and Congress President both have tried and given funds for your development, but the state government never utilized it. You should ask them, where has all the money gone?" he asked the cheering crowds.

Democracy And Nation Building


Rajiv Gandhi : "We have cherished our democracy. Democracy is our strength. We have no illusions that all problems have been resolved. But the democratic way of nation building requires patience, perseverance and a spirit of conciliation. We proclaim the unity of India. It is a fact of transcending significance. But is it not also a fact that most of us, in our daily lives, do not think of ourselves as Indians? We see ourselves as Hindus, Muslims or Christians, or Malyalees, Maharashtrians, Bengalis. Worse, we think of ourselves as Brahmins, Thakurs, Jats, Yadavas and so on and so forth. And we shed blood to uphold our narrow and selfish denominations. We are imprisoned by the narrow, domestic walls of religion, language, caste, and region, blocking out the clear view of a resurgent nation. Political parties, state governments and social organisations promote policies, programmes and ideologies which divide brother from brother and sister from sister. Bonds of fraternity and solidarity yield to the onslaughts of meanness of mind and spirit. Is this the India for which Mahatma Gandhi and Indira Gandhi sacrificed their lives?We need to change the scenario of rural areas and for that we need to change the lives of farmers, workers. This is the only way out. We need to take the farmers closer to the use of technology, give them advanced equipments, give them newer variety of seeds and teach them new irrigational methods. On the other side we will also make sure that they get the right price of their production. This way we are trying to help out the farmers.Bringing the 73rd Constitutional amendment, he also brought the idea of 'a government of the people, by the people, for the people' into a real shape.(Strongly advocating Panchayati Raj)…After the country got Independent, the constitution promised the resolution of empowering the third strata of society. First and second is functional from Delhi or functional in capital cities which is decently empowered after several elections. These can not be moved now. But because the third strata is still weak, the weakness passes on to the first and second strata too. People at the top strata become paper lions. This way a complete hollow set up is built and that is what we need to rectify. need to ensure that newest of technology is utilized and used at the rural level. We need to befriend science and technology to jump to higher notches. Distance between concept and implementation needs to be bridged."RAHUL GANDHI : "I have been saying for sometime now that this country started of as one country and every body in this country was poor. Sixty years of work and today we have developed two Indias. One India is the India of opportunity and second India is lacking that opportunity. You can say one India is rich, one India is poor. You can say one India has infrastructure, roads, connectivity and other India does not. You can say one India lives in the cities, the other India doesn't. None of these definitions captures precisely the fact that there are two India. But every one among us knows that there are two Indias. Ensure that it is an India of opportunities for all. Our view is that you need both these Indias to eventually create that One India. The idea is that you take the India with opportunities, you grow that India and you take some of the benefits and you put them into the villages and you engage and involve that India into this first one. That is our view. Out view is that both these Indias have to be merged and that is the idea of Aam Admi.".

Responding to State Senator James Sheehan of Rhode Island on The National Popular Vote Plan


State Senator James C. Sheehan (D-RI) wrote an article titled The National Popular Vote compact would sideline our state. This article was published in the Westerly Sun of Westerly, Rhode Island.The National Popular Vote Plan is an interstate compact, whereby participating states would agree to allocate their electoral votes to the winner of the National Popular Vote, as opposed to the candidate who secures the most votes in their state. The compact would take effect when enough states (constituting the requisite 270 electoral votes required to win the Presidential election) agree to participate. Currently 8 states and the District of Columbia, constituting 132 Electoral votes, have ratified the compact.Mr. Sheehan argues that under the Plan "big states and big money would be the likely winners and the Rhode Island's voice would go from small to obscure and insignificant."In actuality however, no candidate could win an election by focusing solely on the largest populated state(s). These states tend to cancel each other out; creating an environment wherein candidates will have to garner votes in small and medium sized states as well. California and Texas are the nation's two largest states. California has voted for the Democratic Presidential nominee in the last five elections. In 2008, Democrat Barack Obama won the state with 61% of the vote. There was no serious effort by the Republicans to even contest the state.

Contrariwise, Texas, the second biggest state, has not voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter won the state in 1976. There has been no serious effort on the part of Democrats to win the state since 1992. In 2008, while Democrat Barack Obama won the Presidency with a comfortable 52.9% of the vote, Republican John McCain won the loan star state with a formidable 55.4% of the vote.Ironically, under the current winner-take-all regime of awarding Presidential electors, which is employed in 48 states, both large and small states are ignored. The three largest states, California, Texas, and New York are used by candidates merely as ATM machines. Presidential candidates raise campaign money from these states' benefactors, but make no effort to cultivate support from these states' voters. Contrariwise, of the 13 smallest states, only New Hampshire is a perennial showdown state. The other 12 states are "safe states" which receive no attention from the Presidential candidates.As for the influence of "big money," the same amount of money would be raised under the National Popular Vote Plan as is raised presently. The only change is that the preponderance of the money collected "would not" be spent in just 15 battleground states.Under the National Popular Vote Plan, the political voice of the Ocean State would actually be amplified. Currently, the state attracts no attention from Presidential candidates because it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that the state will be won by the Democratic nominee by a wide margin. The state last went for a Republican in 1984, as part of Ronald Reagan's 49-state landslide victory. In 2008, Democrat Barack Obama carried 38 of the state's 39 municipalities without even campaigning in the state.Under the National Popular Vote Plan, every vote throughout the nation will be in play. No voter will be ignored because of his or her disadvantageous geopolitical residence. Presidential campaigns will have one goal, to muster as many votes as possible.

Under the current status quo, there is no electoral reason for a candidate to pay any attention to Rhode Island's commercial fishermen, its manufacturing industry, or the state's Agricultural output.Under the National Popular Vote Plan, Presidential candidates will have causes belie to address these issues. They will have an electoral incentive to open campaign offices in Rhode Island, send surrogates to address Rhode Islanders, and to cultivate and galvanize their political bases. Candidates would spend their campaign war chests not just within the 15 or so showdown states, but would likely spend money throughout the nation, including in Rhode Island.Mr. Sheehan warns: "The legislation also proposes to give our state's electoral votes not necessarily to the presidential candidates of our residents' choice but to the candidate who wins a majority of votes across the nation."This statement flies in the face of the fact that more than 70% of Rhode Island voters support a National Popular Vote. When an national election is decided against a voter's chosen candidate, the voter is not likely to take solace in the fact that the candidate captured their state. A supporter of John Kerry from Rhode Island in 2004 was probably not reveling in the fact that the Democratic nominee won the Ocean State. The national election is what counts for the voter, and Kerry lost.At the state level where a National Popular Vote is employed, there is no focus on how a candidate fared in a certain municipality. For example, a voter in Smithfield, Rhode Island was probably not focusing on the fact that Republican Gubernatorial nominee John F. Robitaille handily won the municipality. Instead, the voter was more likely to be focusing on the fact that Independent Candidate Lincoln Chafee won the state.Mr. Sheehan admonishes that under the National Popular Vote Plan: "Major population centers would become even more important in the race for president, while towns and rural areas could be largely ignored." Despite Mr. Sheehan's conclusions, the nation's large urban areas comprise only a smidgen of the total electorate. In fact, the nation's top 25 cities comprise only 12% of the electorate, and the nation's five largest populated cities constitute just 6% of the electorate. Accordingly, to win the national popular vote, a candidate must appeal to the large majority of Americans who do not live in these urban centers of which Mr. Sheehan speaks. It would be politically foolhardy for a Presidential candidate to focus exclusively or even largely on urban centers.We see the ineffectiveness of this argument at the state level. In 2010, Texas Governor Rick Perry was re-elected by 13 percentage points, despite being overwhelmingly defeated in the state's two largest cities, Houston and Dallas. In fact, these two cities are two of the highest populated U.S. cities. Furthermore, George Pataki served three terms as Governor of New York, despite being wiped out in the nation's largest city, New York. Finally, California has elected four Governors in the last 46 years who did not come close to carrying the state's largest city, Los Angeles.Lastly, Mr. Sheehan advises that supporters of the National Popular Vote Plan "should submit this idea as a constitutional amendment, instead of exploiting a loophole in constitutional law and trying to affect voting change through state legislatures." Perhaps Mr. Sheehan does not realize that the National Popular Vote Plan in no way circumvents the U.S. Constitution. In fact, there is no provision in the U.S. Constitution mandating that the President must be selected by a particular electoral method. Accordingly, there is absolutely no need for a Constitutional Amendment to change the method that states use for the awarding of electors. The Founding Fathers could not arrive at a resolution as to how to award electoral votes at the Constitutional Convention. Given this impasse, they decided to delegated "plenary authority" to the states to award their electors, as reflected in Article ll, Section 1, Clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution, which states: "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors." Accordingly, each state has autonomy to select electors in any way that it deems fit.In conclusion, the National Popular Vote Plan would give Rhode Island voters the seat at the electoral table that they are currently lacking. Rhode Island was the first state to declare independence from Britain. Under the National Popular Vote Plan, Presidential candidates will treat the Ocean State with the respect that it deserves.