You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
Editorial: Congress: don’t legislate; remember how to make policy
Guest EditorialJune 19, 2013 | 1,118 views | 1 comment
By Lee Hamilton
I’ve noticed a recurring question as I talk to people about Congress. What can be done, they wonder, to get Congress back on track? It’s an institution with very little to show for its efforts.
There’s a reason for this. Few legislators know how to make it work any more -- respect the legislative process and know it intimately, have mastered the substantive and procedural details, and have the political savvy and skill to move a bill to enactment.
How can Congress improve? A few procedural fixes might help, but the real answer is actually pretty simple: change the way members of Congress work.
First, they need to put in more time legislating on the major challenges facing the country. Only twice this year has Congress been in session for four weeks straight. Its members spend too much of each week at home campaigning and meeting with constituents, and don’t use their limited time in Washington well. The time-consuming, difficult work of legislating on complex issues is becoming a lost art.
Capitol Hill should be an engine of creative policy-making and inquiry, not the place that dynamic lawmaking withers. This can’t happen, however, if members of Congress continue putting politics ahead of policy making. Many of the bills passed today in one chamber or the other are not even taken up by the other body. They are posturing, not legislating.
If lawmakers want to reverse this, they need to re-order their priorities. They’ll rein in their partisan instincts. They’ll spend less time asking for money and more on building relationships among colleagues who can help them enact legislation. They’ll learn how to do rigorous oversight, with truth-seeking hearings that are fair and balanced.
They’ll master the legislative process, rather than delegating bill-writing and even strategy to staff. They’ll bypass receptions, dinners, and media appearances, and instead bear down on the work their constituents sent them to pursue: crafting legislation, debating bills, deliberating with their colleagues, and reaching consensus on the serious problems confronting the country.
Here’s the most important part: They don’t need legislation or constitutional amendments or procedural fixes or even years of seniority to start. They just need to go to work and make the Congress and our representative democracy effective at serving the best interests of the country.
Lee Hamilton is director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.
Your Opinions and Comments
The Marcelina Muse
Dry Tank, TX
June 19, 2013 1:30pm
Share your comment or opinion on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Section A: General News Archives
Brownlow: Little chance ‘fracking’ could hurt water (September 2, 2015)
City’s proposed budget, property taxes raise questions (September 2, 2015)
County Commisioners ‘buckle up’ on $24M budget (September 2, 2015)
Court Update (September 2, 2015)
De Leon family sells Olivia’s San Antonio location (September 2, 2015)
Distracted driving program new requirement for teens (September 2, 2015)
Editorial: Coca-Cola to obese people: Hey, exercise more! (September 2, 2015)
Editorial: How will voters sort through all the candidates? (September 2, 2015)
Editorial: Libs: Symbols mean something — unless we disagree (September 2, 2015)
Floresville awards contract for event center repairs (September 2, 2015)
Floresville elections take twists (September 2, 2015)
Floresville struggles to ‘play ball’ (September 2, 2015)
Free webinar series for small businesses (September 2, 2015)
From student job to interim manager (September 2, 2015)
Karnes airport gets $2.1M in funding (September 2, 2015)
Labor Day office closures (September 2, 2015)
Letter: Karnes County officials continue spending (September 2, 2015)
Letter: Urgent: Nix Iran deal (September 2, 2015)
Letter: Voter ID thumbprint (September 2, 2015)
Make your way to Feather Fest (September 2, 2015)
MedDropSA is Sept. 5 (September 2, 2015)
Meeting Watch: East Central ISD (September 2, 2015)
Oscar Mayer issues recall (September 2, 2015)
Paid firefighters could aid La Vernia volunteers (September 2, 2015)
Police Blotter (September 2, 2015)
Register to compete in Adult Literacy challenge (September 2, 2015)
Relay committee to meet Sept. 8 (September 2, 2015)
SARA approves study of Floresville’s River Park (September 2, 2015)
Sponsors needed for Conversation with Constitution event (September 2, 2015)
Stockdale council approves $2.07M 2015-16 budget (September 2, 2015)
Substitute teacher training dates set (September 2, 2015)
TEA lauds Falls City, Poth (September 2, 2015)
The best medicine (September 2, 2015)
VA cuts backlog (September 2, 2015)
Welcome back! (September 2, 2015)