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Fixing Congress


By Lee Hamilton

Fri, Mar 21st, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

These are hard times for Congress. Its approval ratings have seen a bump from their historic lows of a few months ago, but it’s a small one. Our representative democracy’s keystone political institution is widely derided as ineffective, unproductive, irrelevant, and sadly out of touch.

It is no coincidence that this comes while Congress has developed a taste for so-called “unorthodox lawmaking,” wandering far outside its traditional procedures. That’s why I would argue that as grim as things seem now, there is a fix for what ails Congress.

Broadly speaking, it involves congressional process. Let me quote John Dingell, the canny U.S. House member from Michigan who recently announced his retirement. “I’ll let you write the substance,” he once told a House Judiciary subcommittee, “...you let me write the procedure, and I’ll screw you every time.” In legislative bodies, whoever controls the process controls the result. If it wants to restore itself, Congress must make its processes exemplary and fair.

Members should begin by opening the floor to more amendments. At the moment amendments are tightly limited, if not banned outright, in an effort by the leadership to control the outcome. This restricts debate, impedes the free flow of ideas, and strengthens leaders while disempowering ordinary members.

The leadership also needs to give up its concentrated power and hand more authority to congressional committees. However worthy congressional leaders may be, they cannot do the job that the committee system was designed for: holding hearings, inquiring deeply into issues, eliciting facts, laying out options, arguing over amendments, finding the common ground needed to advance legislation.

The simple truth is that members of Congress are there primarily to legislate — not to raise money or score political points on television. Yet Congress seems to devote less and less time to crafting and passing legislation; it is losing the habit and the skills, and its work product suffers. It needs to work harder at the job Americans expect.

To make this possible, the Senate should do more of its business by simple majority vote of the senators present and voting. I know that many senators like the ability to filibuster, and do not want to abandon the rule that requires 60 votes to close debate. But here’s the thing: the super-majority rule, as it has been applied rece .....
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Corned corn

Fri, Mar 14th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

So it’s St. Patrick’s Day: wear some green, eat a green cupcake, and possibly drink green beer. After spending almost a decade down in the Chicagoland area, where Irish heritage is a big, big deal, it’s quite a change of gears to be back in th ..... 
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Where Congress falls short...and where it doesn’t

By Lee Hamilton

Fri, Mar 14th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

At a public gathering the other day, someone asked me how I’d sum up my views on Congress. It was a good question, because it forced me to step back from worrying about the current politics of Capitol Hill and take a longer view. Congress, I sai ..... 
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Rep. Davids finds positives in latest state budget forecast

Fri, Mar 14th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

Jason Wenisch Minnesota House of Representatives Communications Specialist ST. PAUL – Minnesota’s budget analysts say our state’s economy continues to be healthy, as they report a projected $1.233 billion surplus for the remainder of the 201 ..... 
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Correction 3.17.14

Fri, Mar 14th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

In the March 10, edition of the Fillmore County Journal there was an error in the Village sticks with road option, waits for input story. It was printed that the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Rushford Village would be Tuesday, March 25 at ..... 
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Asset-based community development

Fri, Mar 7th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

By Tim Penny, SMIF President/CEO Too often communities focus on what they don’t have. And it is true that many community leaders struggle due to insufficient funding, limited resources, and inadequate infrastructure. But it is also true that if ..... 
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A reality check

By Col. Stan Gudmundson

Fri, Mar 7th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

It is important to periodically reexamine humanity’s hideous past to remind us of how extremely dangerous our world is. We cannot afford to take our country, liberty, and our way of life for granted. The slaughter of the last 125 years or so ca ..... 
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Looking back: The unique perspective of time

Fri, Mar 7th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

By Herb Panko Chatfield, Minn. Jeff Erding’s article in the Fillmore County Journal, February 24, 2014, issue, shows an astounding compilation of wild assertions, exaggerations, unsupportable opinions, and outright false statements. Let’s s ..... 
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One Moment, Please... Gambling with Minimum Wage

Fri, Mar 7th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

There’s a lot of talk about increasing the minimum wage, both at state and federal levels. For Minnesota, the conversation has been leaning toward an increase in minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9.50 per hour -- a 31 percent increase. At th ..... 
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