End­ing the threats of a govern­ment shut­down

Mem­bers of Congress pay a fine if they fail to pass a bud­get

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Gary Franks Gary Franks is a former Repub­li­can mem­ber of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Con­necti­cut.

We are looking at an­other po­ten­tial fed­eral govern­ment shut­down this week. The high drama over pass­ing a bud­get, pass­ing spend­ing bills un­der reg­u­lar or­der, and the lift­ing of the debt ceil­ing has gone on for far too many years.

Congress and the White House should be able to at least com­plete the ba­sics of gov­ern­ing smoothly or be forced to do so by risk of a per­sonal penalty or fine.

The three trig­gers for pun­ish­ing mem­bers of Congress should be re­lated to the three most ba­sic parts of their job — pass­ing a bud­get, fund­ing the fed­eral govern­ment un­der reg­u­lar or­der, and man­ag­ing the debt sta­tus of the United States.

The per­sonal fine on mem­bers of Congress would have to be very se­vere and must be im­me­di­ate.

Make mem­bers of Congress cut their own wrists be­fore they pull the life sup­port from the Amer­i­can peo­ple by not pass­ing crit­i­cal leg­is­la­tion when due. I strongly be­lieve they will rush to find com­mon ground at least among their own party mem­bers, ig­nore those who are hope­lessly op­posed to do­ing so, and pass afore­men­tioned leg­is­la­tions on time.

It must not wait un­til Elec­tion Day. The record would show that the vast ma­jor­ity of the mem­bers of Congress do not fear elec­tions with many not hav­ing a se­ri­ous chal­lenger in decades and oth­ers could not be beaten by Mother Theresa, if she reg­is­tered with the opposition party, due to po­lit­i­cal ger­ry­man­der­ing and his­tor­i­cal trends.

The Amer­i­can peo­ple want our Congress to do its job. And that takes 535 mem­bers and the White House work­ing to­gether.

I was an elected of­fi­cial for more than a decade with most of that time as a mem­ber of Congress from the great state of Con­necti­cut. I’m Repub­li­can — and I go way back. I can re­mem­ber meet­ing Pres­i­dent Rea­gan in the White House as an elected of­fi­cial. I was the first black con­ser­va­tive elected to Congress, and I was the first black Repub­li­can elected to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in nearly 60 years back in 1990.

It is my be­lief that the most skilled mem­bers of Congress are the ones who are able to work with other mem­bers to help their con­stituents, state and na­tion.

Vot­ers can only re­ward you so much for “try­ing and fail­ing” — and to­day, Repub­li­cans con­trol the House, Se­nate and White House. There are no ex­cuses. Achieve­ments are what war­rant praise. Giv­ing your sup­port­ers false ex­pec­ta­tions or over­promis­ing would slowly come to an end. Ev­ery­one un­der­stands that Rome was not built in a day. It of­ten takes small steps to truly make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence. The more steps taken, the closer you get to your goal.

It took a while for Congress to get to this point. Elim­i­nat­ing ear­marks stripped the party lead­er­ship of a large amount of its strength. The ex­panded use of ger­ry­man­der­ing in con­gres­sional dis­tricts cre­ated more po­lar­iza­tion and has made it very dif­fi­cult to beat an in­cum­bent. Thus, there are lit­tle con­se­quences for a per­son’s ac­tions. On the rare oc­ca­sions when a mem­ber of Congress is de­feated, they are fre­quently re­placed with a per­son more to the left or right.

To achieve nothing is not an achieve­ment. That is why the ap­proval rat­ings for Congress have been so low over the years.

We should fine all the mem­bers of Congress and the pres­i­dent if they are un­able to do the ba­sic parts of their afore­men­tioned jobs and elim­i­nate the any­where, any­time threat of re­moval of a speaker. We would have a much smoother run­ning fed­eral govern­ment. (To af­fect Congress it would only take a rule change).

How hefty should the fine be to get their at­ten­tion and how should it be done to en­sure fair­ness? Af­ter all, some mem­bers are mul­ti­mil­lion­aires and a fine too small would cause them to ig­nore it. On the other hand, some mem­bers are liv­ing month to month from their pay­check, and you do not want the fine to be too crip­pling for those folks.

The so­lu­tion is to make it a per­cent­age of their ad­justed gross in­come (AGI) from their most re­cent fed­eral tax re­turn. This would make it fair. Make the fine equal to 10, 15 or 20 per­cent of their AGI payable to a non­profit like the United Way of Amer­ica. The re­sult — gridlock is over. Politi­cians would learn not only to work with oth­ers who have dif­fer­ent views but they will also learn to man­age the ex­pec­ta­tions of their con­stituents. Those who are the best and the bright­est will shine in such an en­vi­ron­ment and the Amer­i­can peo­ple would ben­e­fit the most.

The so­lu­tion is to make it a per­cent­age of their ad­justed gross in­come (AGI) from their most re­cent fed­eral tax re­turn. This would make it fair.

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