Thursday, June 01, 2017

Trump's Not Draining Any Swamps-- Any Chance Congress Will? Two Congressman Are Going To Try


Ro Khanna (l), Mike Gallagher (r)

You're not going to find many congressional freshmen working together who are as fundamentally different-- politically-- as dedicated progressive champion Ro Khanna (D-CA) and crackpot right-wing loon Mike Gallagher (R-WI). But the two of them did an OpEd this morning for USA Today that makes the point that the way to increase bipartisanship in Congress is to reduce the role of the wealthy special interests that call the shots for both political parties. It's a simple and very do-able 3-step plan. The bipartisanship around it though, I'm afraid, will be the bipartisanship of GOP leaders Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy joining forces with careerist Democrats Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Joe Crowley to kill the proposals if they show any sign of taking on a life of their own. This is not part of incumbent career protection and Congress never passes these kinds of reforms-- unless the public forces them to. Can two freshmen reformers get around their corrupted party leaders and appeal to the American public?
Two Congressmen Offer A Bipartisan Plan To "Drain The Swamp"
- by Mike Gallagher and Ro Khanna

You’d be hard-pressed to find two congressmen more dissimilar than us. We come from different parties, and we represent very different districts. One of us taught economics in the technology hub of Silicon Valley; the other is a Marine veteran from the dairy farming capital of the country. One of us campaigned against the Iraq War; the other served in it. Though we may not agree on everything, we do agree wholeheartedly on a key takeaway from our first few months as members of the U.S. House of Representatives: Congress is in critical need of reform to reduce corruption and diminish the power of special interests.

While the phrase “structural reform of Congress” often gets pushed aside to seemingly more urgent debates about domestic and foreign policy, we ignore this issue at our peril. The comedic newspaper The Onion ran an article in 2010 with the satirical headline “American People Hire High-Powered Lobbyist To Push Interests In Congress.” We aren’t sure if people would even recognize that as satire anymore.

Whether in Cupertino or Green Bay, we have heard loud and clear that our constituents want a fairer system of government, less money in politics, more bipartisanship and fewer lobbyists in Washington. Each of us have core values on which we will never compromise, and our voting records reflect that. However, 83% of Americans believe that Congress should find common ground on issues in order to get things done.

If voters want us to work together to solve problems, then why the years of gridlock? Put simply, because the system supports the status quo and resists real change.

We are at a historic opportunity to change that and institute reforms that will reduce corruption in our government and the influence of money in politics. The new administration, whatever your views on it, came to power pledging to drain the swamp. Bernie Sanders, whose populist message inspired millions, agrees with that goal, if not the method. The current freshman class of House of Representatives, which includes 27 Democrats and 28 Republicans, is more receptive to these ideas than any before.

As two of those 55 new voices in the House, we are proposing a series of reforms that will diminish the influence of special interests in politics, as well as encourage new voices to embark on the path we have taken to public service.
Nonpartisan redistricting is essential to ensure politicians aren’t allowed to gerrymander their districts and choose their own voters. The less competitive a district becomes, the more general elections become formalities. This practice is already at work in Arizona, California, and Iowa and having independent, nonpartisan commissions commonplace across the country will ensure our congressional districts are drawn by the people, not politicians.
Congress should not be a career. The longer people stay in Congress, the more adept they become at making the system work for them and not their constituents. That is why we and a number of our fellow freshmen support legislation that would set term limits of 12 years for Representatives and Senators.
People should also run for Congress to serve, not to profit. That is why we call for a five-year ban on lobbying after a member of Congress leaves office. We hope that our colleagues all have successful careers after they turn in their voting cards; however, that success should not come from the “revolving door” between the Capitol Hill and K Street.
This is just a modest start. We hope to talk to many of our constituents and colleagues from both sides of the aisle in the weeks and months ahead to gather more proposals to encourage a culture of reform in Washington. We want to challenge the administration to live up to its campaign promise about “draining the swamp.” We also want to challenge ourselves and our colleagues to put self-interest aside and start putting forth reforms that reduce the power of special interests.

And, most importantly, we want to challenge voters to demand that their elected representatives support these efforts, or else find others who will.

Draining the swamp is not enough. Unless you structurally change how the swamp is fed, it will fill right back up. So let’s start on that structural reform and lay a pathway for tomorrow’s leaders to unite the country and confront the problems of the 21st century in the only manner we have a chance at solving them: together.
We asked Ro how he hopes to implement the reformist ideas he and Gallagher put forward in the OpEd. "Anyone watching the 2016 elections," he told us, "should have two takeaways. Most Americans are frustrated with the job politicians are doing and want a change from incumbency. Most are sick of the role of special interest money in politics. So you would think that term limits and banning corporate PAC and lobbyist money would have tremendous support. But it doesn't because too many people in the system have an incentive to keep it the way it is. The only way we get this change is if citizens across this country, regardless of party, start demanding it. We need to remember that those of us in Congress work for the people, and it's not the other way around! Hold us accountable. Force us to vote for basic reform."

Long after Gallagher buckles under to GOP threats, I expect we'll see Ro Khanna still fighting-- and looking for other allies in a battle the Establishment will viscerally hate him for waging.

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At 2:55 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Great op ed.

Two other changes would be essential:

corporations are not people - this is a needed amendment to the Constitution

public funding of political campaigns - mandatory contributions through yearly taxes would do it - a minimal amount from each person on such a large scale would do the trick

The chances of this happening are close to nil unless we throw a great deal of the bums out in 2018. This includes Nancy Pelosi and Debbie W-S for sure.

At 6:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good augmentation, Hone.

The ban on lobbying should be lifetime, not 5 years or ANY arbitrary span.

That, natch, is close to moot if Hone's 2 changes are implemented.

And the likelihood of any of these to be adopted isn't CLOSE to nil, it's nil (+/- 0.00). Ro, Ted and Pramilaya are in favor, but they are < 1% of elected Ds and represent none of the DNC and DxCCs. And all will be defeated at the next election if the democrap power strIctures are able to primary them with some former R or corporate whore.

So just as you point out that the R power strictures will soon mute the R, the D power strictures will mute or remove Ro.

Of course, voters will have the final say in 2018. Who has any confidence that they'll make the smart choice? Didn't think so.

At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

congress *IS* the swamp. they'll never drain themselves.

voters have to do that.

our voters never will.


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