I understand why so many Americans are fed up with government. The 112th Congress was almost universally derided as the worst ever. It was the most polarized body since the end of Reconstruction, according to one study, and I grew embarrassed by its partisan bickering, inactivity, and refusal to address the vital challenges facing America. – Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Mercifully, the presidential election draws to a close and next week we will have a 45th POTUS. Our new President will face a highly balkanized electorate represented in large part by another partisan and polarized Congress, the majority of members of which favor ideology, special interests and re-election over governing.
The vitriol of this election has essentially drowned out all other news. So let me roll back the clock a month to late September. On the same day as Gary Johnson’s now infamous “Aleppo Moment”, Congress passed legislation to avoid another government shut-down. This monumental achievement came just two days before federal agencies were expected to run out of money (the end of fiscal 2016). The measure kept the federal government funded through December 9th. While avoiding a shutdown of the federal government, Congress only delayed the work of passing a comprehensive budget deal for fiscal 2017.
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner from Virginia issued this statement following the approval of this interim spending bill:
“[I]t’s unfortunate that political dysfunction has brought us to the point where we celebrate Congress doing the barest minimum of its obligations. As I’ve long-maintained, this is not a responsible way to conduct our nation’s business. Nor is it appropriate for must-pass legislation to be exploited for political advantage…"
No. This is not a responsible way to conduct our nation’s business. And the unfortunate truth is that if and when we get beyond the looming showdown over the budget, there are a myriad of known areas that require attention and legislation, including selecting a new supreme court justice, immigration reform, climate change, infrastructure, tax policy, health care and energy policy. Then there are the unplanned issues that are bound to arise. Issues akin to the spread of Ebola and Zika as well as the inevitable natural disaster such as the flooding of the Delta. Do we all sit back and idly watch the train go over the rails once again or is there a better way?
I tip my hat to Grover Norquist for inspiring my idea for a better way. For those of you who are not already aware, Mr. Norquist is the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), an organization that unflinchingly opposes all tax increases regardless of their merit. One of the things for which Norquist is known is the Tax Payer Protection Pledge (TPP). This written covenant requires its signatories (both sitting legislators and candidates for office) to actively oppose any effort by our government to raise taxes on individuals and businesses. As of today, the TPP has been signed by nearly 1,400 elected officials — representatives to governors.
I will reserve my views on the substance of TPP for another day. Instead I hereby present “Americans for Governing” (AFG), an organization that opposes members of Congress who refuse to effectively govern (I made a logo and bought the URL on GoDaddy so it is official). The flagship project for Americans for Governing is the Citizen Protection Pledge (CPP), a written promise by members/candidates for Congress that commits them to the following:
- ONE, acknowledge that while I respect my party and my constituents, I agree to govern all Americans, support the legislative process and never participate in any action that threatens, or leads to, a government shut down.
- TWO, adhere to the highest ethical standards with respect to campaign donors, lobbyists and any other “special interests”.
- THREE, treat tax dollars as if there were a fiduciary relationship between government spending and the taxpayer.
See below for the actual CPP. You are instructed to print the CPP, sign it, scan it and return it to AFG. Unfortunately, AFG has no employees and I have a day job. So Grover, how about taking this on too (we can carve out taxes)? Otherwise, I am taking volunteers.
Citizen Protection Pledge
US Senators and Representatives
I, ________________________, pledge to the citizens of the state of _______________________, and to the American people that I will:
ONE, acknowledge that while I respect my party and my constituents, I agree to govern all Americans, support the legislative process and never participate in any action that threatens, or leads to, a government shut down.
TWO, adhere to the highest ethical standards with respect to campaign donors, lobbyists and any other “special interests”.
THREE, treat tax dollars as if there were a fiduciary relationship between government spending and the taxpayer.
Signed Pledges may be emailed to: