2. Congress

A Radical Centrist Vision for the Future > List of Amendments > Congress

2.1 Laws shall apply to all citizens including members of Congress.

Fairness demands that laws passed by Congress shall apply to members of Congress as well as all other citizens –and non-citizen legal residents or anyone else resident in the United States. Exceptions are permitted for members of foreign embassies, although not including anyone guilty of felony crimes, but otherwise any exception shall only be allowable with a 3/4ths vote in Congress.

This Amendment includes taxation laws and any other laws that require a citizen to provide funds to the Government. Be it enacted that:

Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to Senators and Representatives ; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to Senators or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.

For far too long, members of Congress has passed laws that specifically exempt themselves from the effects of those laws, in the process granting themselves elite status and special advantages over all other Americans. This is unconscionable, unfair, and creates a privileged aristocracy that must not be tolerated in a representative democracy.

Therefore, Congress shall not exempt itself from any laws of the United States of America, in whole or in part, nor shall any government agency, board, panel or any other official group or person exempt any members of Congress from any law, regulation, policy or action which is applied to the citizens of the United States. In practical terms this means:

2.1.1. No pensions nor any semblance of tenure

A Congressman or woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when out of office.

Reimbursements for expenses incurred in the course of duties of office must be limited to no more than 10 % of salary for that office in any given year. All expenses shall be made public record each calendar month.

2.1.2. Members of Congress (past, present and future) shall participate in Social Security.

This exemption from ex post facto provisions of previous Constitutional law is necessary because of extensive and prolonged abuses by members of Congress of both houses and parties. This is not intended to be generalized to other areas of Law and ex post facto provisions shall stand in all other cases unless specifically exempted by Constitutional Amendment. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund will move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds shall flow into the Social Security system, and Congress shall participate with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

2.1.3. Members of Congress can purchase their own retirement plans, just as all Americans do.

This Amendment voids any and all government retirement plans that members of Congress may have entered into with any agency of government. Representatives or Senators will be reimbursed for any monies paid into such plans, with market value interest added as if that money had been deposited in a bank with FDIC protections. No other considerations shall be given concerning retirement.

2.1.4. Members of Congress shall no longer vote themselves pay raises.

Congressional pay will rise (or stay the same, or decline) pegged to the Consumer Price Index. The base salary of elected officials and all other government employees shall be reviewed within one year of each census. Should Congress agree that an adjustment to the base pay should be made, such change can only be allowed with a 2/3rds vote in approval.

2.1.5. Members of Congress presently serving shall lose their current health care plans and must participate in any available health care system open to any American, and pay for the service just as all other US citizens do.

2.1.6 All contracts with past and present members of Congress are void within 30 days of ratification of this Amendment.

The American people did not make any contract with Congressmen or women. Members of Congress made contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

2.1.7. Serving members of Congress and the Judiciary shall have their personal assets held in a blind trust, just like the President, until they leave office.

This Amendment, here somewhat modified, seems to have first been suggested on December 29, 2010, by Rich Vail, who can be reached at The Vail Spot.

2.2 Informed Representatives and Senators

No bill being considered for enactment shall be voted upon unless members of Congress have the opportunity to read it first. It shall be regarded as an impeachable offense not to read a bill voted on. There shall be 1 day granted for this purpose for each 25 pages of text, and a minimum of 2 days in all cases.

All legislators must certify, under penalty of perjury, that they have read any bill before they can vote. No bill may be presented for a vote unless it has been made available for public viewing in its final form.

This Amendment may be referred to as the “read the damned bills !” Amendment.

The concluding two paragraphs, somewhat modified here, were proposed and published at Rich Vail’s site.

2.3 Removal from office for convicted felons

No official of the Federal Government shall be permitted to continue in his (or her) office upon conviction for a felony crime. This applies to all officials, elected or appointed. Likewise, it applies to Government employees of all descriptions. Termination shall take effect immediately upon conviction. All benefits in any form, such as monetary payment, insurance, retirement plans, etc, shall, upon conviction of a felony crime, be immediately terminated and, at the discretion of the Court, damages may be sought from the guilty.

2.4 Legislative Committee Assignments

The winning party in House elections shall be enabled to choose chairmen or chairwomen according to popular vote criteria. At this time each chamber has 20+ committees With a simple majority of less than 55 %, the winning party will have first choice for chairmanships for any 5 committees, all other committee chairmanships allotted alternatively between the two major parties.

For example, if the Democrats were to win an election with a simple majority they would chose which 5 committees their members would chair, followed by a Republican choice, another Democratic choice, and so forth, until all committees had chairs appointed.

Each additional 2-1/2 % of the vote and the number of “first choice” chairmanships would increase by one.

For example, a victory margin of 59 % of total popular vote and the winning party would select the first 7 chairmanships. In the case of the Senate, if staggered elections continue, 2/3rds of all committee chairmanships would be held over and the remaining chairmanships apportioned in a similar manner according to popular vote percentages. However, the following Amendment is proposed which would render parts of this provision moot if it is ratified, which would call for revision of wording here.

2.5 Number of Senators

The number of senators from each state (or commonwealth) shall be increased from two to three. This will ensure that during each Federal election one Senator from each state will stand for office.

2.6 Public interest Congressional Districts

All congressional districts shall be as geographically compact as possible, boundaries drawn with major consideration for local traditions, with the objective of making as many US House of Representatives districts in all states as politically competitive as possible. . No more (or only an unavoidable few) “safe” districts which are not competitive will be acceptable. There shall be no racial or ethnic “quotas” in determining district boundaries although, as stated, all due respect shall be shown to local culture and traditions. Conversely, no districts should be drawn up to disenfranchise racial or ethnic minorities. In so many words, this Amendment disallows the practice known as “gerrymandering.”

Some tolerance shall be allowed in designing district geographic shapes such that there may be occasional departures from geometric regularity to accommodate., for instance, a neighborhood that has some odd shape on a map, or to cluster communities on one side of a mountain range, and the like, but liberties with this freedom shall not be acceptable. The objective shall be what is stated here, also sometimes referred to as the “Iowa system.”

This Amendment voids any previous decisions of the Supreme Court concerning Congressional District mapping.

This Amendment recommends that states shall employ non-partisan public interest organizations with appropriate expertise in making mapping decisions. However, the exact procedure employed to achieve the objectives outlined here are the prerogative of the states themselves.

The intention of this Amendment is to make elections competitive as much as feasible, to best serve the interests of democracy, something not served well now by the practice of “reserving” seats for politically favored population groups. Such seats tend to become political fiefdoms in which open and fair democracy is very problematic.

2.7 Third and Minor Party Representation in the House of Representatives

Twenty at-large seats in the House of Representatives shall be created in addition to the existing total, or future totals, to ensure representation for “third parties” or other minor parties. This presumes that no party in addition to the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are able to win House seats, or only win a very limited number of seats, despite contesting various elections in any of the several states. . In other words, to use examples from history by way of analogy, if a hypothetical Federalist Party was to poll as strongly as the Reform Party of 1992 but was shut out in its bid for electing members to the House, its portion of the non-major party vote might entitle it to ten seats. In addition, should the presumed Federalist Party win three or four House seats outright, the party would still be awarded those ten additional seats.

However, there would be a limit to the number of at-large seats any one “third party” would be assigned in any election, a number hereby set at ten.

What is presumed here is that the pattern of most past elections would remain commonplace, such that no “other party” would normally outright win contests for the House of Representatives. In that case, the hypothetical results of an election, adding up all votes for minor or third parties nationwide, a presumed “Peoples Party” might be awarded seven seats, the next highest tally going to the “Whig Party” which might receive five seats, the “Liberty Party” might receive four, and so forth. In other words, for each 5 % of the total votes in the nation for House seats for all “other” parties in a general election, an alternative party would be awarded one seat in the House of Representatives.

Explanation: It is time enough to cease to shut out minor or third parties from representation in Congress. Such parties have always contributed to the national debate in new and sometimes important ways, and deserve such representation. This Amendment preserves the status of a system in which there are two major political parties, yet allows for the rise of a new party when the people demand it, as has happened in American history in the 19th century and almost happened in 1912 or even 1992.

At the same time it says that, even when alternative political parties receive relatively small vote totals, there is recognition of the fact that the two party system is heavily skewed in favor of citizens not voting for “other” parties because, even when they do, ” their votes don’t count.” Through this Amendment their votes would undeniably count.. This Amendment takes the view that third and minor political parties are an asset to the public and would help foster a new kind of politics in the Congress which would stimulate new solutions to vexing problems which will always arise within a strictly two party system.

2.8 Tribunes of the People

The office of Tribune of the People shall be created so that Congress will be obligated to listen to the grievances and recommendations of citizens who otherwise would have no other voice in Government. There shall be three Tribunes, always at least one man and at least one woman. Tribunes shall be elected every two years at the national level, and serve no more than one two year term. This office is non-partisan by design and their campaigns shall be non-partisan in nature. They shall maintain offices within the House of Representatives but have no voting rights in that body ; their function is simply to make representatives aware of issues that may be overlooked by reason of the fact that nearly all elected officials belong to a partisan political party. Each Tribune shall act as a national “ombudsman.” In that capacity each shall have the opportunity, one day each year, to present his or her case before the House of Representatives in open hearing.

Obviously, each Tribune will be able to speak to members of Congress when Senators or Representatives are not on the floor conducting the business of government. A Tribune, in effect, is a lobbyist of the citizenry, and of no commercial interests or labor union.

NGOs or citizens’ organizations or the like may well have interest in promoting candidates for this office, but it is up to such groups, extant or newly formed, to create a workable system for nominating and electing Tribunes.

2.9 Professional and Occupational Balance among Legislators

No political party may nominate for office for any given election candidates who predominantly have one kind of professional background. No profession may be have more than one-third of nominees. That is, lawyers of all kinds shall comprise a maximum of 33% of candidates for any political party. This applies to all other professions, such as for example, academics. The intent of this Amendment is not to be circumvented, for instance, by considering professors of political science in a different professional category than professors of sociology or psychology.. This principle applies to people in business, or anything else.

2.10 Coherent and Reasonable Legislation

Each bill passed by the Congress into law shall be restricted to a single subject, or limited set of obviously related and interdependent subjects. The nature of the proposed legislation shall be expressed in its title.

No bill brought before Congress shall exceed 100 pages in length, which is to say the equivalent number of words found in a published scholarly book set in 12 point type, Times New Roman font, of this length. If legislative need is complex in nature a series of related bills may be introduced for consideration.

Each bill passed by the Congress shall identify by name the Representative or Senator responsible as principal sponsor for each provision, appropriation, emolument, or encumbrance within said bill ; and no provision, appropriation, emolument, or encumbrance shall be considered law unless so identified.

This Amendment expressly prohibits spending bills being added on to other, unrelated, legislation.

Each piece of new legislation should have its means of funding clearly set out.

When a bill becomes law the Congress shall be responsible to expend all necessary monies at that time. or within 48 hours. There shall be no further continuing resolutions.

Congress expressly designate the regulatory scope of the various agencies which have designated responsibilities for enforcement or enactment of new legislation.

Any approved act of Congress shall have a life as law of no more than 20 years. After which, unless voted on and re-approved, said law becomes null and void. Exempted from this provision are criminal statutes, or equivalents, which deal with such actions as are currently regarded as felony offenses liable to penalty of incarceration.

Because of past Congressional conduct, a lesson learned the hard way, this is necessary so that two effects are achieved:

The House of Representatives and the Senate will be kept busy updating existing legislation (so there is less time for mischief) and forcing each member to justify his or her vote on each issue.

Additionally this would encourage streamlined legislation that could be easily read, understood and justified by each member, and compel entrenched bureaucracies to regularly justify their existence to Congress.

This will, among other things, also end the practice known as “Christmas Tree” legislation whereby a bill may be loaded up with earmarks until its original design and purpose become obscured beneath a large number of unrelated add-ons. By common consent, however, each Christmas season each House of Congress shall be permitted to pass one “Christmas Tree Bill” in which each member shall be permitted one earmark to be added to a bill created for this purpose.

Otherwise, earmarks shall be permitted only on the following special condition:

Any Congressman or woman or Senator who wants to insert an earmark in a bill will have to cut off and staple one of his or her ears to the bill. This will limit each member of Congress to just two earmarks in a lifetime. Why do they need ears? They don’t listen to us anyway.

Nearly all of this Amendment has been taken from Rich Vail’s site, mostly verbatim. The wording, with a few exceptions for reasons of style, could not be improved upon.

2.11 Term Limits

No Federal elected official, including the President or members of Congress, shall be eligible for more than 12 consecutive years in that office. There are no restrictions for members of either House of Congress on seeking other elected offices or seeking re-election to an original office after an interval of two years has elapsed after serving in an elected office.

This also nullifies Amendment XXII. However, a retiring President cannot become Vice President and no President, after serving three terms in office in any sequence, may again become the nation’s Chief Executive.

2.12 Up-dating Legislation

Congress and Senate will be given a time of 2 years to re-ratify all existing laws to bring them in line with new Amendments to the US Constitution. Any law that fails to meet the deadline will be deemed null and void.

If 2/3rds of all State legislatures vote (by simple majority) against an existing Federal law, that law will be considered null and void regardless of action by the Federal legislature.

In extreme cases –the intention here is for less than ten such cases in either house– should a current law be deemed too difficult or dangerous to modify in two years, Congress may, by super majority vote, approve a two year extension, after which no further extensions will be allowed.

A Radical Centrist Vision for the Future > List of AmendmentsJudiciary and Criminal Justice (next)


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