Witt: Making Congress ‘work better’

Published 10:59 am Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A very high percentage of people agree Congress is not working (at least not working for the good of the people). Of course, part of the reason for that problem is American voters keep sending the same knuckleheads back time and again.

Here are a few suggestions for fixing things, most of which have been floating around for some time.

First, term limits (and nuts to those who say term limits are already imposed by voting). No Congressperson may serve longer than 12 years. There are far too many senators and representatives who have settled into their sinecures and become comfortable with things as they are.

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They know they have name recognition back in their districts and are likely to be re-elected because of the vast amounts of largesse foisted on them by corporations and special interests who want to keep them in office.

If these congressmen — and women — understood they would not be in office 12 years hence, perhaps they would be more apt to deal with the problems facing their constituencies. If term limits are good enough for the presidency, they should be good enough for Congress.

Congressional salary increases to be tied to the annual growth of the Consumer Price Index or to the increase allowed Social Security recipients, whichever is less. Sen. Mitch McConnell has voted himself six pay raises in the same amount of time that he has voted against raising the federal minimum wage 16 times. There is no mental connect between what Congress makes and what the average individual must survive on.

Third, no special free services will be provided to members of Congress or their staffs, such as salons, barber shops or cafeterias. At a minimum of $174,000 per year, they can certainly afford their own haircuts if “Joe Blow” can afford them on $40,000 a year.

All members of Congress and their staffs will immediately be vested into the Social Security system, but they may institute additional retirement plans such as 401Ks, under the same requirements that apply to the private sector.

Since so many in Congress apparently feel Social Security is an “entitlement,” they certainly deserve it as much as any working stiff. And, believe it, any problems with Social Security would be fixed post haste if they were vested in it.

Congresspersons will be expected to work 250 8-hour days per year, which will provide a two-week vacation, but does not include federal holidays the same as provided for the U.S. Postal Service.

Also not included in the 250-day requirements will be a yearly allowance of five days sick leave (non-cumulative). Maybe a time clock at the entrance to the Capitol would be a good idea. Overtime only if previously approved by vote of two-thirds of the states.

Sixth, no special transportation facilities will be provided, such as limousines or other specialized vehicles.

Here is one that is going to rankle even the most dedicated elected official: Since those in Congress continually complain decent housing in Washington is not available on the salary of a Congressperson, the federal government will build and maintain housing complexes in which all members of Congress must reside during their tenure.

Residences within these complexes will be available in multiple-bedroom sizes to accommodate the varying family sizes, and each complex will have cafeterias and Post Exchange-type stores where those in Congress can eat and purchase household items at slightly-reduced costs similar to what is available to military personnel. Or they can pitch tents on the Capitol grounds.

Oh, and no lobbyist will be permitted into this complex, which will be monitored by the Capitol police.

Congresspersons will be allowed to keep their franking privilege, but only to send material that is germane to informing the public about pending or completed legislation. Any correspondence containing self-aggrandizing drivel will result in loss of the privilege for a period to be determined by the opposing party.

There are probably a host of other things that could make Congress work better. Think about them.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.