Can Congress Be Saved?

While the media fixates on the presidential horse race, an increasing number of thoughtful observers are focusing on how to reform Congress so that it actually works. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) penned an interesting article for the National Review that offers a number of suggestions.

First, Lee would like to see Congress do its homework and put much more detail into the bills it passes. Too often Congress passes vague bills on broad subjects like “clean air” or “high education,” leaving the crucial details to federal bureaucrats. As a result in 2014, executive agencies wrote over 79,000 pages of administrative rules. These rules may or may not actually reflect the will of Congress.

Second, Lee would insist that Congress quit surrendering its power over federal spending. “The process of approving a federal budget comes down ‘to a single ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote – usually up against a crisis deadline – on a massive budget agreement that most members have not been involved in crafting,” he says. Instead, Lee wants a more deliberate process involving more members and more committee hearings.

Third, the senator wants Congress to more actively oversee what is happening in the executive branch. Right now, Lee suggests, the best recourse to bring an administrative agency into line is by filing a suit in court, but this is a very time consuming process that often does not yield timely results.

Senator Lee believes Congress can be fixed. “The only good news in all this is that what a weak Congress has broken, a strong Congress can fix,” he says. “But only a strong Congress – there is no substitute. There is only the House and the Senate, their 535 members, and Congress’ collective will to do its duty to our Constitution and countrymen.”

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