Congress needs consequences

May 19, 2012

Jon Ralston’s recent column criticizing “No Budget, No Pay” legislation was strong on rhetoric but weak on substance. He proposed no ideas for reforming Congress, only condemning Sen. Dean Heller’s bipartisan effort to get Congress to finish its budget work on time. Any mule can kick a barn down; it takes a carpenter to build one. Sen. Heller is trying to be a carpenter.

Journalists know that they don’t get paid if they don’t meet deadlines. Why can’t Congress try the same approach? Nothing else seems to move Congress. What’s wrong with paying Congress for results?

California has found that “No Budget, No Pay” forced its legislature to do a better job of meeting fiscal deadlines. The non-partisan group No Labels is promoting the reform nationwide as a way to align the interests of elected officials with taxpayers. Congress has never missed Christmas or Thanksgiving, and this reform will make sure we never miss Oct. 1, the beginning of our fiscal year, again.

Deadlines work. Congress should, too.

The author is a Democratic congressman from Tennessee.


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