Our dozen proposals to Make Congress Work! mostly don't require new laws or new spending, and they don't favor any party or particular cause. These are simple, straightforward proposals to break gridlock, promote constructive discussion and reduce polarization in Congress.
If Congress can’t pass a budget and all annual spending bills on time, members of Congress should not get paid.
All presidential nominations should be confirmed or rejected within 90 days of the nomination.
Require real (not virtual) filibusters and end filibusters on motions to proceed.
Allow a bipartisan majority of members to override a leader or committee chair’s refusal to bring a bill to the floor.
Make Congress work on coordinated schedules with three five-day work weeks a month in DC and one week in their home district.
Provide a monthly forum for members of Congress to ask the president questions to force leaders to debate one another and defend their ideas.
A nonpartisan leader should deliver an annual, televised fiscal update in-person to a joint session of Congress to ensure everyone is working off the same facts.
Members should make no pledge but the pledge of allegiance and their formal oath of office.
The House and Senate should institute monthly, off-the-record and bipartisan gatherings to get members talking across party lines.
At all joint meetings or sessions of Congress, each member should be seated next to at least one member of the other party.
Congressional party leaders should form a bipartisan congressional leadership committee to discuss legislative agendas and substantive solutions.
Incumbents from one party should not conduct negative campaigns against sitting members of the opposing party.
Our Make the Presidency Work! action plan consists of 11 common-sense proposals that would help break the gridlock, by changing outdated rules and traditions that get in the way. This action plan isn’t changing the checks and balances that our founding fathers created, it’s merely designed to make the office of the president less insular, and less political.
Presidents should commit to holding at least one news conference per month, and bi-monthly news conferences.
Twice a year, the president should be able to introduce legislation directly to Congress for a fast-track vote, which would allow the legislation to pass with a majority vote and without amendments.
Any trip with any fundraising activity at all should be classified as political travel, and the necessary air travel, lodging and other trip expenses should be paid in full by the president’s party or campaign.
Let’s give presidents expedited rescission authority, which would give them similar power to the line-item veto authority that enables 44 state governors to remove provisions from spending legislation.
We should give new presidents more authority to fill less- urgent positions and let the Senate focus on the most important nominees who deal with more pressing matters.
Within a few days of the election, the president should be prepared to name a group of nominees for especially crucial positions, who would be subject to both speedier background checks and Senate review and confirmation.
All presidential nominations should be confirmed or rejected within 90 days of the nomination being received by the Senate. If a nominee’s name is not confirmed or rejected within 90 days, the nominee would be confirmed by default.
We should take a cue from the British Parliament’s regular questioning of the prime minister to create question time for the president and Congress. These meetings occasionally may be contentious, but at least they force leaders to actually debate one another, and defend their ideas.
Granting presidents the authority to reorganize their branch of government is straightforward— we just have to revive the authority given to every president from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan.
Every year, a nonpartisan leader should deliver a televised fiscal update in-person to a joint session of Congress. The president, vice president, all cabinet members, senators and members of Congress must take individual responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of the fiscal report by signing it.
In the tradition of Reagan and O’Neill, presidential candidates should commit to meet with majority and minority party leaders in the House and Senate at least once a quarter.
On July 18, 2013, the Problem Solvers, a coalition of Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate, stood together to unveil a legislative package aimed at making government work again. The bills are the Problem Solvers' first legislative initiative, and mark a first step toward rebuilding trust across the aisle to solve problems.
If Congress cannot pass a budget and all annual spending bills on time, members should not get paid.
Move to a two-year budgeting process.
Get rid of duplicate agencies and programs identified in 2013 by the Government Accountability Office.
Enforce strategic sourcing so that separate divisions within a single federal agency do not make independent contracts for common items.
Stop assuming automatic year-to-year spending increases in agency budgets.
Merge the electronic health records of the Department of Defense with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Cut 50 percent of agency travel and replace it with video conferencing.
Reduce energy waste in federal buildings by incentivizing private companies to identify energy savings. The contractors would be paid with the dollars saved instead of with taxpayer dollars.
Create a new Commission for Government Transformation to oversee and effect the transformation of various federal government programs so they will be more economical, efficient and effective.
Make America Work! is a call to action for our leaders to fix themselves and to fix the government that they aspire to lead. That’s the only way we can restore the right kind of confidence in America — the kind that allows us to create and take risks because we know our leaders are helping to create a better tomorrow.
It’s time for Democrats and Republicans in Washington to be straight with us about our deficit and about what it will take to solve the various other challenges we face as a nation.
The job of our leaders is not to serve as a daily barometer of public opinion. It is to make the best decisions for the future of our country.
Washington needs a lot more leaders willing to put their country ahead of their career. It may cost them an election, but it’s a price our leaders have to be willing to pay if they want to save the country.
It’s time for our leaders to take responsibility for their actions. When they mess up, they should fess up and deal with the consequences.
Throughout American history, the best and most durable solutions were found when our leaders worked across the aisle. Democrats, Republicans and independents need to find common ground.