In the next couple of months, Congress will have to deal with a series of issues that may make the decision about going over the presumed fiscal cliff to be child’s play. (photo used under Creative Commons/flickr user Gage)
By Robert Bradley
Many of the newly sworn-in members of the House and Senate may soon wonder whether the time and effort to get elected was worth it.
In the next couple of months, they will have to deal with a series of issues that may make the decision about going over the presumed fiscal cliff to be child’s play. They will have to make serious spending cuts to avoid going through sequestration, deal once again with whether the debt limit should be raised, and address the continuing operation of the federal government.
At the same time, there will be several confirmation hearings, and meetings to deal with immigration reform, a comprehensive farm bill, and whether the postal service should be saved. And of course they will be dealing with gun reforms. This, of course, is not the entirety of the legislative agenda but certainly indicates that the members will have a full schedule.
What follows are some suggestions for the new Congress to hopefully help them and the public that elected them.
1. Abide by your oath of office: You swore to support and defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. . You did not swear to support and defend your personal beliefs, your political party, your major campaign donors, any interest groups or lobbyists, your party’s leaders, and media representatives. You also swore that you would well and faithfully discharge the duties of your office.
2. Compromise is integral to being a legislator: To compromise effectively means having the abilities to prioritize, to listen, and to analyze. It is difficult but yields typically much better outcomes for the common good. It is much easier and less productive to stand your ground, thus conceding nothing but producing little.
3. Making no comment can be useful: Many, if not all, cable news shows depend on getting immediate, often not very thoughtful, comments from legislators. These comments then are used to elicit comments from other legislators typically hardening them into opposing camps. It may be much more useful for legislators not to yield to the temptation of creating an immediate soundbite, and instead reflect some and then comment.
4. Stop repeating talking points: Talking points can be useful during a campaign but seem to serve little productive purpose in the process of governance. Forceful repetition of talking points makes the process of compromise much more difficult.
5. Meet socially with members of the opposing party: Make an effort at least once every two weeks to meet with at least one member of the opposing party in a non-official, work-related function, such as breakfast, lunch, or attending a sporting event. The purpose of this is not to persuade but to get to know the other person as an individual.
6. Work to enhance the effectiveness of the institution: A purpose of the Constitution was to make it difficult for small groups or individuals to control government for long periods of time. Yet Congress currently is dominated by small groups or individuals who are making it very hard for any meaningful legislation to be enacted. What can be done to restore one of the original intents of the Constitution in regard to the operation of the government?
7. Governing and not campaigning: Many in Congress appear to be consumed almost as soon as they take their oaths of office with enhancing their prospects for re-election. Thus, actual governance appears to be given secondary status. This has to be remedied for restoring Congress to its proper role as the leading lawmaking body.
Bob Bradley is solely responsible for the opinions expressed above. These opinions do not necessarily reflect those of WJBC, Radio Bloomington or Cumulus Media staff or management.
Bradley was a full-time professor in the Department of Politics and Government at Illinois State University where he has been since 1982. He has received several recognitions including: Carnegie Scholar for Civic Engagement, Constitution Trail Friend of the Year, and Faculty Star distinction by ISU Athletics. He dearly loves his wife, Reenie, of more than 25 years, and his daughter, Erin. He is an avid reader, devout sports enthusiast, gardener, golfer, and bird watcher.