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How to Fix U.S.

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May 17, 2017

We elect members of Congress to go to Washington, but very few spend much time in the city legislating. Their schedule usually consists of three days a week on the House or Senate floor when they're in D.C. Host Alex Schuman looks at a proposal from two former senators aimed at making Congress stick around longer and get more work done.



Whenever somebody runs for Congress they talk about what they’ll do once they get to Washington.

Then once they are elected… they act like they never want to be there. Many fly back almost every week to make it clear they are not part of Washington society. They hate it. Yet, almost always, they ask for you to keep sending them back. Does that make sense? Shouldn’t they be working? Why do they have to fly back all the time? We have phones… I don’t know understand. Past members of Congress don’t either.

Former Democratic Senator Tom Daschle - who led the Senate for years - blames lots of things for collapse of bipartisanship, but now he wants to offer solutions. We’re America. A country founded on dissent, debate, and a dogged search for a more perfect union. This podcast is meant to continue that search. This… is How to Fix U.S.

Hello, I’m Alex Schuman. Americans feel their government is broken, but luckily this nation is designed to change. We have adjusted our government many times to try to keep it working amidst big technological and societal shifts. Today - our focus is on the work week for members of Congress.

That’s Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle again. He points out a big problem most voters don’t realize. Members of Congress (all of whom get paid more than 170,000 dollars a year) really only legislate three days a week… if they’re in Washington at all. He blames one particular invention while speaking to a group at Harvard.

I’ve attached a link to the House of Representatives 2017 schedule if you don’t believe me. I’ve covered Congress… if they’re showing up Monday… it’s most likely to gavel in late in the afternoon or early evening… and if they’re miraculously there Friday… they likely won’t be in town past one in the afternoon.

In the past, Senators and Representatives used to move their families with them to Washington.  Their kids would end up going to the same schools, their wives or husbands would become close, and bipartisan interactions gave them a chance to see… ‘Oh, that guy’s a human - and not so bad. Maybe we could work together.’ Older members own homes and condos… their spouses live with them. Many newer members have opted to sleep in their office.

It helps them continue looking like an outsider. The idea of running as an outsider isn’t new. What’s new… is that you don’t actually have to live in D.C. anymore… giving people a chance to pretend they’re not part of Washington. For example, listen to part of this ad from Indiana Senator Todd Young’s 2016 campaign.

You would’ve thought he’d never set foot in D.C. In reality, he’d been in the House of Representatives for six years.

Iowa Congressman David Young wasn’t much better. He worked on Capitol Hill for more than a decade before running for office, and faced tough questions when he tried be both an insider and an outsider on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press.

We’re not going to get our politicians to stop pretending they're not part of Washington… because voters seem to like it. Both Senator Young and Congressman Young got elected. And we can’t ban airplanes. The solution getting pushed by Former Senator Tom Daschle and Former Republican Senator Trent Lott is to require a 5 day work week for members of Congress.

A five day work week doesn’t solve an angry base who lashes out against compromise or a culture of corruption that can happen whenever someone’s involved in politics. But a five day work week may at least force them to see each other as people again and decide to spend more time working on actual laws instead of one minute speeches.

The two former Senators are citizens just like us… so the best they can do is suggest the idea. Congress sets its schedule. Some members have proposed bills. One of the best options for anyone who wants to push the idea… is to push your lawmaker. Write or call… asking for their stance on the idea. Question if they would support it during a townhall. A big reason they spend more time in districts is because voters like it - so… show them you don’t.  The idea here is that we have to stop pretending coming back on weekends make them any less a politician as someone who comes back once a month. We sent them to Washington to fight for us… not build up skymiles.

Thank you for listening to this episode of How to Fix U.S. Take literally one minute… review and subscribe to this podcast. Music by Sound clips from MSNBC’s Morning Joe, CBS, and Harvard University. This episode was produced and written by me Alex Schuman. Thanks for listening… another episode will be up next week.