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Why Congress needs institutionalists


Fri, Jun 26th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

It takes all kinds of people to make the U.S. Congress work. The ambitious and the laid-back, loners and consensus-builders, partisans and aisle-crossers - all have their place. In these highly politicized times, though, there's one type who is particularly valuable: the institutionalist.

This means pretty much what it sounds like: a member who puts the institution of Congress first. Who welcomes responsibility for making it work; who pushes his or her colleagues to fulfill their constitutional obligations; who respects the role and history of Congress in forging this country's history.

Institutionalists generally tend to be more senior members of Congress, whose years on Capitol Hill not only give them an appreciation for the accomplishments of the legislators who came before them, but also help them put in perspective all the other considerations that compete for a younger member's attention, like partisanship, power, relations with the White House, and the regular task of getting re-elected.

For what an institutionalist values above all else is the role that Congress plays in making our representative democracy viable. It should not be merely a body of elected officials, each pursuing his or her own goals or banding together to advance one political party's interests. Rather, Congress has a set of responsibilities laid out in the Constitution and developed over the 220 years of its existence that enable it to serve as the place where the American people come closest to touching their national government.

To do what's required of it, Congress must function as a deliberative and democratic body; work as both a partner and a critic of the presidency; protect itself against inevitable pressure from the White House to let the President set the agenda in all things; and engage constantly in the search for remedies to the challenges that beset our country. These things don't just happen on their own. They require members of Congress to tend to the body in which they serve.

All too often, though, both incumbents and challengers these days run against the Congress, taking delight in criticizing it and hoping to make themselves look good as a result; this public disdain for the institution makes it much harder to play a constructive role in building on what's right about the place.

The traditions of Congress - rules about how legislation should be handled, how debate takes place, how controversy gets channeled thro .....
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One moment, please... Serving Fillmore County

Mon, Jun 22nd, 2009
Posted in Commentary

As I have visited with Fillmore County residents and business owners, I have arrived at the conclusion that if our masthead says "Fillmore County Journal," then we need to do our best to make sure every household in Fillmore County receives our news ..... 
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Make weatherization plans for winter now

Fri, Jun 19th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

Planning to make your home more energy efficient for winter is probably not on the top of your agenda for things to do in June. This is a time for leaving windows open over night to let the cool air in, allowing us to wake to a cacophony of birdsong ..... 
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Wild Ethics

Fri, May 29th, 2009
Posted in Commentary



The cyclist, earphones in his ears, zooms by me, looking neither right or left, intent on speed and endurance and I wonder why he bothers to bike on this section of the Harmony / Preston Trail that runs along Camp Creek where fish swim and ..... 
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A religious conversion: I don't think so

Fri, May 29th, 2009
Posted in Commentary



This week the American Health Insurance Plans organization (insurance trade organization), along with 5 other health care groups, notified the administration they were on board for healthcare reform. The one caveat they have notified the adm ..... 
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One Moment, Please...

Fri, May 29th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

As I indicated shortly after my wife and I purchased the newspaper on February 2, 2009, this is YOUR newspaper.

Last Monday, May 25, I opted to publish a commentary piece at the request of Art Callanan, a resident of Preston and long-time Jo ..... 
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Pawlenty and Legislature fail to best serve the people

Fri, May 22nd, 2009
Posted in Commentary

Sadly, the Republican governor and the DFL-led legislature were unable to compromise and play "let's make a deal" and do what is in the state's best interest as their session ended on May 18th at midnight. Pawlenty had given the legislature an ultim ..... 
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Foxes in the hen house

Fri, May 22nd, 2009
Posted in Commentary



The foxes are not just in the hen house they want to build the next hen house complete with an easily breached fence. The American Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Society, PHARMA and other healthcare organizations that have pros ..... 
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It costs too much

Fri, May 15th, 2009
Posted in Commentary



The conventional wisdom is that now is the time for healthcare reform. Of course, the Republicans are saying we cannot do it now because of the economic crisis. We couldn't do it before because of the economic boom and anyone that wanted to ..... 
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