Senate U.S. Government Reform

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Ghost, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I think most would agree that the U.S. government isn't working as well as it should.

    Not even policy, but the act of governance itself.

    What can be done to fix the United States government?




    My ideas (some may only require new laws or a simple legislative process change, while others may require a constitutional amendment):

    1. All elections at the federal and state level must be exclusively publically-funded... no more donations from anyone, period.

    2. Reform the congressional redistricting process... independent and nonpartisan commissions are charged with redistricting instead of state legislatures, using objective criteria, to prevent gerrymandering. (Iowa seems to have already done this)

    3. Reform the filibuster process in the Senate... by forcing Senators to have to actually speak.
    *Perhaps reducing the number needed to invoke cloture and break a filibuster down from 60 to only 55 or perhaps even 51.

    4. Significantly reduce the number of presidential appointments that need to confirmed by the Senate.

    5. Give the President the constitutional authority for a line-item veto.

    6. Institute an automatic voter registration system so all citizens are automatically registered once they become eligible to vote, and institute automatic updating of voter registration for when a citizen changes residency.

    7. Eliminate the Electoral College, and replace it with a nationwide popular vote.
    * If no presidential ticket gets more than one-third of the popular vote, then an automatic runoff soon after between the two teams who received the most votes.
    * Perhaps turn "Election Day" into "Election Week" or even "Election Month," with polling places open 24/7.

    8. Streamline and reorganize the Legislative and Executive Branches (see chart below).
    * Match the committees of each congressional chamber to each other so they're symmetrical (the committees in the House aren't the same as the committees in the Senate).
    * Match the titles of statutory law (the U.S. Code) to those committees (as well as transforming the entire U.S. Code into positive law), each committee is strictly responsible for revising its one title of statutory law.
    * Match the cabinet departments to those titles of statutory law, each cabinet department is strictly responsible for enforcing its one title of statutory law (also, the entire executive branch is reorganized so there are only cabinet departments, no more independent agencies/boards/commissions/quasi-entities).
    * Match the titles of administrative law (the Code of Federal Regulations) to those cabinet departments, each cabinet department is strictly responsible for revising its one title of administrative law.
    * Each committee is responsible for auditing and providing oversight of its respective cabinet department.
    * Perhaps set is so the Secretary of each Cabinet Department is appointed and confirmed to a 6-year term, to make the positions less partisan and create consistency across elections. Not all terms would be up at once; they would be spread out, similar to the way Senators are elected.
    [IMG]




    Temporary Boards thread:
    http://gd.theforce.net/xentemp/inde...m-now-discuss-election-political-reform.2684/

    Old Senate thread (truncated posts):
    http://boards.theforce.net/threads/bureaucratic-legal-reform-in-the-united-states.31351787/
    Last edited by Summer Dreamer, Feb 6, 2013
  2. Juliet316 Shelf of Shame "Loser"

    Game Winner
    Member Since:
    Apr 27, 2005
    star 7
    The boards ate your links.
    Summer Dreamer likes this.
  3. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Fixed... the boards hate Internet Explorer.
  4. Coruscant Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2004
    star 6
    You use Explorer?

    Christ.

    edit: oh wait is it that new version? Does IE not suck anymore? (sorry to derail your thread)
    Last edited by Coruscant, Feb 6, 2013
  5. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    New version. The only problem I've had with it is posting on these forums since the move.

    So, you clicked on the thread :p ... how do you think the U.S. government can be fixed?
  6. The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 19, 2007
    star 6
    The most difficult part of fixing the government would be, I think, convincing people that it needs fixing in the first place. Any change significant enough to make a meaningful difference is going to face considerable opposition, especially from the people it takes power away from, so while it might be a simple matter to compile a list of solutions to its numerous problems, I'm not sure any of them would ever be implemented unless there's a fairly major crisis that imprints the image of a truly dysfunctional government into the minds of the people.
    Sarge likes this.
  7. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    I just wanted to start with this.... but who gets the money, then? What is the criteria used to give someone funding? Additionally, as the primaries are effectively party elections carried out through the electoral system that the government has set up, is that same funding provided at that level? And most key, how much public funding should be happening?
  8. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I think that, with things like the record disapproval ratings, most people think the government needs to be fixed.

    It's just when you get into specifics that people will need some persuasion, especially the people who stand to lose any power. But it can be done. There is broad support for getting money out of campaigns and streamling the government, probably for automatic voter registration, and I think a majority support getting rid of the Electoral College (a major reason why many say they don't vote). Others, like redistricting and the filibuster, line-item vetoes and presidential appointments, will need more public education but it can definitely be done.

    Also, I'm pretty sure we're already having major crisis after major crisis, and the idea that we have a dyfunctional government is already imprinted onto the minds of most Americans. :p

    Well, I'm not a real Senator or Congressman about to introduce this as legislation for a vote. :p But the way I see it...


    Qualifying for public funds should be based on a formula, and tied to a timeline.
    First, of couse, check that the persons who are interested in public funds actually legally qualify for the office they seek.
    Second, set qualifications for polling organizations (explained in a bit), done by an independent nonpartisan agency/department/commission (probably the FEC) or just have that nonpartisan organization do the polling itself.
    Third, each candidate who has at least 2% support in at least 2 polls (from the qualified polling organizations) within the past 3 months can qualify for public funds (the underlined numbers are just examples to start off with).
    When there are 6 months left until election time, then increase it to showing at least 5% support in at least 5 qualified polls from the last 3 months can qualify for public funds. Change it again when there are 3 months left, then 2 months, then one month.
    Probably increase the amount of public funds given out to each qualifying candidate over time too. And there should be one universal formula for each type of office (president, senator, congressman, governor, other statewide officer, state senator/representative, mayor, etc.). Consistency is very important, but also recognize that the forumula for Presidential candidates will be different than the formula for state representative candidates, etc.


    As for primaries, yes it should apply for primary campaigns too. Just make it so the parties themselves have to qualify (since the polling organizations have to qualify too), then use identical standards to provide funding for primary candidates based on primary polling as it's done for all candidates based on general election polling. As for how parties would qualify... perhaps just have those qualified polling organizations do a series of national polls on the support of these parties. For example, if you can find at least 5% support for a party in at least 5 qualified polls in the last 3 months, then the party qualifies.

    Just don't allow a candidate who polls more than 2% in both general election polls and primary polls to get twice as much public funds as his/her primary opponent who's only polling more than 2% in the primary polls. That would give an unfair disadvantage to those primary opponents as well as an unfair disadvantage to any independent candidates running outside of any party.

    It would only be those parties that don't qualify, who consistently get less than say 5% national support by qualified polling organizations, that are allowed to use private funds. Same with any individuals seeking office that don't meet their benchmark. They can use private funds until they meet the necessary benchmark, but if they do qualify then they must be limited to the equal public funds. And as I said, each formula would be tied to a timeline, with the qualifications rising with time, especially near the end.


    Also, since the federal government already has regulation over telecommunications, perhaps they can back back-up this system even further by prohibiting unqualified candidates (and all SuperPACs) from buying airtime for TV/radio commercials, buying spots for Internet ads, or making unsolicited phone calls, that support or oppose any political candidates.


    Finally, the amount of public funding should be determined by a formula. Like I said above, all candidates running for the same type of office should be treated equally (president, senator, congressman, governor, state officer, state represenative, mayor, etc.), but the formula should be modified for each type of office. I'd say the main factors in the formula should be number of people who would be eligible to vote for you for that office, and how much time until voting begins.
    Last edited by Summer Dreamer, Feb 6, 2013
  9. Valairy Scot Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    Interesting theory but I fear it would fall afoul of the 1st Amendment, especially SuperPACs.
  10. DarthLowBudget Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 17, 2004
    star 5
    Can someone please dig up WormieSaber's theories on this? I seem to recall something about a 2,000 member Supreme Court.

    Personally, I can't get behind a line-item veto, or the reduction of appointees that need to be confirmed. Invests too much power in the executive. If anything reform needs to be enacted to allow the legislature to reassert itself as a meaningful and respected body in government, and to slightly scale back the image of the Presidency.
  11. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    That's why it would be a constitutional amendment :D At least for #1, #5, and #7.

    I agree that Congress needs to reassert itself (it kind of already is), but only in areas where currently the President is too powerful. My idea #8, part of which is making Cabinet Secretaries appointed to 6-year terms instead of being tied to the President, as well as strictly defining their roles, would certainly do this.

    I don't thinking giving a line-item veto, and getting rid of some Senate-confirmed appointment, would really make the President that much more powerful.

    Look at how long this list is...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...idential_appointment_with_Senate_confirmation
    and 4 years later President Obama took office, many of these positions STILL aren't filled. As has been brought up in the gun debate, there's been no Director for the ATF since 2006, when it became a Senate-confirmed position as just one example. Like I said above, the most important cabinet people should be Senate-confirmed, even made independent from the President. But there are many lesser positions that really shouldn't need to be Senate-confirmed.

    As for the line-item veto, that works fine in most states. It would just give the President the power to veto part of a bill, which would be a great way to eliminate most earmarks. The President isn't really given more power, just the ability to use a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer with his existing veto power.
  12. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    The biggest problem with a line-item veto is that it destroys the incentive for a minority party to compromise.

    Consider, for example, the current state of things in Congress. It takes agreement between the House (dominated by Republicans) and the Senate (dominated by Democrats) to get anything passed. That requires a lot of give-and-take compromise between both sides. If the President can then go through and veto parts of that compromise at will, which would then require a supermajority to overcome, what is to stop a Democrat from striking out all of the concessions offered to the Republicans in order to get it through the House, or a Republican from striking out the concessions offered to the Democrats to get it through the Senate?

    A line-item veto would remove any incentive for the party that doesn't control the White House to compromise, since any concessions they win could be undone by the Executive. As a result, it would only increase the deadlock.

    If such a thing were to be implemented, I would prefer something more like what Virginia has. After a bill is passed, the Governor can sign it/passively allow it to go into effect (by doing nothing), veto it, or return it to the General Assembly with suggested changes. The General Assembly then has to vote to either accept or reject the changes (with no further amendment) in each house. If either house rejects the changes, the Governor has the choice to either sign the bill as it was or veto the bill entirely.

    Such a setup allows for minor changes to bills, but doesn't easily allow whoever controls the Governorship to renege on promised concessions.
    Lowbacca_1977 and DarthLowBudget like this.
  13. DarthLowBudget Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 17, 2004
    star 5
    Ladies and gentlemen, one of the few times I will ever agree with Kimball on something political.
    Vaderize03 likes this.
  14. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Some comments here, based on the points:

    1. I think I see your intent, but then, for this to work, something like the "optional election fund" line item on everyone's tax returns would have to be made mandatory. Secondly, it would further complicate the illegal alien issue, as undocumented workers in the US who don't pay taxes would get a free ride in providing for election financing- ie participation vs voice.

    I also think it would have the consequence of making elections completely dependent on snapshot polling. If the control used for campaign financing became "winning" 2 public opinion polls, then all candidates would have to do is win whichever polls happen around campaign financing qualification time. This would have the double wammy of knocking off otherwise qualified candidates, and retaining ones who only served to work the system. It would all but eliminate any chance for a "slow burn" candidate.

    2. I would agree with this.

    3.I don't really have a problem with the existing fillibuster

    4. I don't agree with this at all, as it would further move the executive away from being one pillar under separation of powers, to being equivalent to an absolute monarchy or similar.

    5. I don't agree with this either, for the reasons already mentioned. But most of all, if both this and #4 were implemented, what would Congress's role be within government? Congress wouldn't have a purpose of any importance.

    6. I suppose this would work, much like selective service I suppose? The barrier would be the cost. Would the states or the federal government pay for maintaining the universal database?

    7.Eliminating the electoral college is one of the most talked about issues among this list. But, for me, eh.... Any alternatives would have to be debated, and implemented along with election reform such as #6.

    8. There are some good ideas here, but I think they would add to the complexity of government, not streamline it. For example, who would define the roles, and/or act as arbitrator when one authority creeps into another? I'm not so sure I agree with the idea of 6 year cross over cabinet terms, because the cabinets act through the specific President. It would swing the pendulum too far the other way against the executive if a newly elected President had to cope with a Cabinet Secretary who had diametrically opposing views. If you think there is gridlock between Congress and the President, imagine the conflict between a cabinet head from one party and a President from another party, both serving within the executive branch? Would the President still be able to remove members of the cabinet? If so, then it would make holdovers meaningless, unless the President was legally prohibited from removing executive cabinets for X amount of years, but that would be really strange.
  15. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    It's basic game theory.

    Let's use a hypothetical example, building on the current situation. Let's say that to fix an upcoming "fiscal cliff" the House and the Senate agree to a compromise bill that uses a balance of spending cuts and tax increases. They pass the bill by a 55% majority in each house of Congress.

    We all know that Republicans tend to favor spending cuts, while Democrats favor tax increases. If you have a Democrat President, he could veto the spending cuts that were used to get Republicans to vote for the bill, and there wouldn't be enough votes to override it (as it only got 55%). On the other hand, if you have a Republican President, he could similarly veto the tax increases, without the risk of the veto being overrided.

    Unless it requires only a simple majority to override the veto (which would be pointless, as it took a simple majority to pass it in the first place), such a system would reward one side for acting in bad faith. Even if you only require a simple majority it still rewards one side for acting in bad faith, because a Democratic Senate would likely not vote to override the same veto as a Republican House would. If both houses don't override the veto, it would stand, rewarding the side that acted in bad faith.

    A line-item veto would simply not be useful in our current system. It might be effective in a case where one party controls both houses of Congress and the other party controls the White House, and it might be effective if there were three parties in Congress of roughly equal strength, but it would be either ineffective or harmful when you have a divided Congress, like we have now.
    DarthLowBudget likes this.
  16. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    While I give you credit for putting this much thought into how to restructure things, I think the structure is fundamentally flawed, personally. Firstly, there is the problem that polling institutions, even credible ones, do have flaws. Largely in that I think it is stilted in a way that will benefit the candidates that are more visible and well-known, as well as propagating the two-party system. By requiring this threshhold, it limits it to candidates that already have sufficient visibility, and thats going to be main party candidates with sufficient backing to dominate the election anyway. I'd much rather see something like instant runoff voting, as allowing support to go to other parties more often would help them gain support, and in turn, visibility, over the following few election cycles. Just restructuring the elections doesn't fix that, imo, the voting system itself is fundamentally flawed in that sense. Removing the money won't change that people feel the pressure of just voting for who can beat who they dislike most. That's a very big problem, I think, and that has to be a reform to the way elections are run, not how campaigns are run.
  17. Valairy Scot Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    One benefit of a line item veto is "getting rid of pork" which I agree before anyone says anything that pork is not always pork (anyone remember George McGovern's Golden Fleece awards - yet many of his targets were worthwhile and cost effective if you really examined them).

    What is a possible solution? The voters aren't going to rebel, Congress is not going to put its collective foot down and say no.

    The only possible I can think of is if Congress enacts some kind of rule that bills must focus on one thing with no tack-ons, but even that can be abused. Look at the rum "give back" along with others in the last big bill.
  18. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 5
    Don't know how much relevance this has, but the current extension of the debt ceiling puts Congressional pay into an escrow account until they pass a budget.

    President Obama signed this; it's a start.

    Perhaps if that can get done, so can other things?

    Peace,

    V-03
    DarthBoba likes this.
  19. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I see what you're saying, and it makes sense, but don't most states have the normal "line item veto" for their governors? This doesn't seem to be happening at the state level. Or do most have the Virginia model?

    Still, the threshhold would be really low at first, if it starts at say 2% for a candidate and 5% for a party. Then, to use the GOP 2012 primaries for an example, Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer would have the same amount of funding for their campaigns as Mitt Romney. It would really level the playing field. It's not perfect, but it would be better than what we have, right?

    I'm also not sure how runoff voting alone would fix the problem you've pointed out. That would give the little guys even less of a chance, unless I'm misunderstanding something.

    1. Yes, that would probably become mandatory, but the program wouldn't be too expensive, still the cost should be deficit-neutral. I'm not sure what you mean with illegal immigrants... they can't vote. As for your other concern, as I detailed to Lowie a few posts ago, the polling would be conducted once a month or so, and the threshhold would be low (just steadily getting higher as election time draws closer).

    2. Cool.

    3. You don't think the filibuster has been abused? This isn't a partisan thing for me. I know the Democrats will be in the minority again someday too, and I'd still rather take this obstructive tool away or severely limit it. Either lower the number of votes needed for cloture, or force people to actually speak, put some effort into it, when they want to filibuster.

    4. Not all, just make some of the minor appointments no longer need Senate apointments. As I say in #8, I want the important nominations to become much less political. And maybe not even allow them to be appointed by the President, just make them completely administrative, rising up through the apolitical ranks of an agency/department.

    5. I don't see where you're coming from here. Congress writes and revises the laws, what these appointed positions and their departments can actually do.

    6. I would think that it would be a joint effort by the federal government and the states, which the federal governments basicaly just overseeing that the states are implementing it in a correct and uniform way for consistency, since many people move from state to state.

    7. Ok.

    8. Congress would define the roles. And some projects would require two or more departments to work together, and that would be fine, as long as they stick to their role and they're overseen by the President (as well as the committees).
    As for 6-year crossover terms... we already do that with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and a few other positions, don't we? You see, I hope this would make the Cabinet much more apolitical and focused on administration, as well as decentralizing the Executive Branch and providing better oversight and auditing for it. No, the President would not be able to remove them, to be removed before the end of their term they would have to be impeached by Congress. Maybe also require a two-thirds majority for an appointment in the first place too.
    Why would it be strange?
  20. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    For a quick reply to #1 and illegal immigrants, I didn't mean direct voting, as you are correct. Right now, contributions are elective-anyone, registered voter or not, can contribute or not. It's what I meant when I said it could complicate the issue. If contributions were made to be mandatory, such as through the tax return "check off" box, then those who don't pay taxes would get a "free ride" so to speak, and I could see a political contribution vs political voice issue, especially if it's tied to "winning" opinion polls around the time to disperse the funds to candidates.
  21. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 5
    Some new ideas on filibuster reform, given what's happened with Chuck Hagel:

    1) In any Congressional term, a filibuster may be used a maximum of three times.

    2) For the fourth and subsequent attempts, it must be an old-style 'talking filibuster'-the blocking senators have to physically stand up and speak.

    3) Three votes may be scheduled with a threshold of 60 to break the filibuster; once beyond that, subsequent votes revert to a simple majority.

    I think those rules are very much common sense in that they cap the 'endless filibuster' at three, and provide a mechanism for further attempts, but also an 'escape hatch' so the US Senate doesn't grind to a complete halt.

    On a personal level, I think what they've done with Hagel is crossing a line. They have basically handed the Democrats a blank check to use the filibuster as often as they please, and as many times as they want, the next time they are in the minority.

    At the very least, they have the record number of filibusters the Republicans have used since Obama's initial election as a safety net, a sort of 'bar' to clear, before the scorecard is even.

    I'm thinking that if we get a Supreme Court nomination over the next two years, and they try and block, the 'nuclear option' will be exercised.

    Peace,

    V-03
    Last edited by Vaderize03, Feb 15, 2013
  22. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Actually, under that framework, Gary Johnson, Buddy Roemer, and John Huntsman all likely wouldn't qualify. Buddy Roemer wasn't included in the polls, and Gary Johnson was dropped even when he was still polling as equal with John Huntsman. And really, a huge part of it is that the candidates that did well were primarily prominent figures, and my concern is any such system also has the effect of just benefiting the already public figures or, more importantly, the incumbent. It's hard enough to knock off incumbents.

    I'm also concerned with a 5% threshold per party, rather than, say, any qualified party being given the same footing. Broadly speaking, the third parties don't poll tremendously well, and they're being hurt not by funding, but by the two-party system as it currently stands. Example being that in California, until they're kicked out, there are 6 political parties. Aside from the standard two, there's also the Green, Libertarian, American Independent, and Peace and Freedom parties. However, voting tends to come down to "Well, I dislike the other party and can't risk them winning", and so it's dominated by Democrats, with some strong areas for Republicans. However, the satisfaction with the candidates is very low; I know plenty of politically-left people that are very unhappy with the Senators for California, for example. If it was restructured to automatic runoff voting, then people could choose to vote for the candidates they support with their first vote, rather than the person who will beat the other party, and is slightly less bad. The first election wouldn't flip things around, but given a few election cycles where the numbers start to grow for the other parties, especially the Green and Libertarian parties as people are willing to vote for them knowing that in instant runoffs, their votes go somewhere else to still influence who wins and not just the low statistics of the 2-5% votes, then the support grows and people start viewing those candidates as having chances sufficient to give them a. coverage and b. donations. It's certainly not a superficial change, but I'd very much prefer something like, say, Australia, where the House of Representatives has 8 parties (2 outside of the government or opposition coalition) and 5 independents. To really get change, there needs to be a shift in which candidates and parties can win elections, not just control funding to campaigns, imo.
  23. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    @ShaneP, you haven't posted here yet!

    I thought I wrote up a response to this a long time ago. :p
    For those other candidates, it could start with maybe 1%, then gradually raise it. It would still be up to those candidates to get to 1%. For those parties, maybe 1% too. The numbers are debateable, not to attached to them. But overall, wouldn't this still be better than the system we have now?

    I don't think automatic runoff voting would help, since it would still be the Democrat versus Republican, because of the mindset of the people you described there. Though I would support it.
    Last edited by Summer Dreamer, Aug 1, 2013
  24. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    I'm waiting SD. Will post soon enough. Reading through this will do for now.
    Last edited by ShaneP, Aug 5, 2013
    Ghost likes this.
  25. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Not necessarily. There will certainly be a Republican vs Democrat mindset, but let's say that in an election in the initial results, the Democrats and Republicans each get about 30% of the vote, and the Libertarians and Greens each get 20%. Suddenly, financially backing a Libertarian or a Green party candidate doesn't seem so crazy, and they start to get a lot more attention and interest and money.