Three must-do steps for Congress

Our dysfunctional government has to be fixed

TO STATE THE OBVIOUS, Americans are fed up with our political process and disillusioned by a dysfunctional government.  It can’t get much worse.  The critical question is: can we fix it?  Consider three urgent steps.

First, the US Senate must change the cloture rule, and it must be done now, before we know who wins a majority in the coming election.  The current use of the filibuster is simply anti-democratic.  It was designed to be used extremely rarely, to safeguard against clear abuses of power, not to obstruct everyday governance.  Requiring a 60-vote, super-majority results in a pathetic and outrageous government paralysis.  If we want to fix our democracy, the Senate must return to majority rule.

Congress

Second, the Speaker must recognize the House is now divided by a three-party system, including the Tea Party. Whichever party nominally has a majority after the election, it will be much slimmer than the present Republican majority.  If Speaker Paul Ryan returns, without the support of the Freedom Caucus/Tea Party members, he leads a fractured party and cannot govern.  Nor can he allow an extreme minority Tea Party to dictate the course of American government.  He must form a new governing coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats who will work to restore public confidence.  With the House’s current approval rating somewhere below that of used car salesmen, it cannot go lower.  And while Ryan may not want to antagonize the Tea Party, which ousted his predecessor from the speaker’s chair and Eric Cantor from the House altogether, that ship sailed when Ryan denounced Donald Trump.

Third, if the House and Senate enact these reforms, the next president must commit to work with Congress on more pragmatic and less ideological matters.  There is consensus on rebuilding America’s 1950s infrastructure.  There is consensus on greater support for public education.  There is a consensus on greater border security and better police training.  And there is consensus that while Obamacare expanded health care coverage to most Americans, costs are skyrocketing and need to be addressed.  Let’s begin where moderates in both parties can agree.

Meet the Author
If we take these steps, perhaps our government can prove worthy of our respect and public confidence.  If not, public frustration and fervor will grow and the next round of anti-government candidates will make Donald Trump look like a cupcake.  Failure is not an option.

George Bachrach is a former Democratic state senator and the current president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts.