Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Facing Criticism, Congress Tries to Reform Itself Some Frustrated Lawmakers Leave Jobs, While New Initiatives Are Proposed

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Facing Criticism, Congress Tries to Reform Itself Some Frustrated Lawmakers Leave Jobs, While New Initiatives Are Proposed

Article excerpt

WITH public approval of Congress at an all-time low, even the members themselves are fed up with the institution.

Some are retiring in frustration. Others are sticking around to try to rebuild a legislature that has grown muscle-bound with too many committees and flabby with perks that members suddenly say they don't want or need.

"I have never seen more senators express discontent with their jobs," Sen. John Danforth (R) of Missouri told his colleagues in the wake of Republican Sen. Warren Rudman of New Hamphire's announcement that he is retiring. (Candidates vie for open seat, Page 9.)

Echoing Senator Rudman, Senator Danforth ascribes the discontent to a feeling that Congress has failed the people on a vital issue: the budget deficit. "Deep down in our hearts we know that we have bankrupted America and that we have given our children a legacy of bankruptcy," he says.

"People are very depressed," says Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) of California. "I will tell you, many times lately I've thought about ditching this and going surfing for the rest of my life."

Last week, both houses launched initiatives aimed at reforming the way Congress works and at saving incumbents' jobs. One of the initiatives establishes a bipartisan 16-member House task force. It will make recommendations by Easter on elimination of perks and on setting up a more professional operation of House services, which were found lacking at the bank, post office, and restaurants.

The House bank has already been closed. Speaker Tom Foley (D) of Washington has announced other changes: no more free prescription drugs for House members and low fees at the House gym.

Another initiative launched last week is a Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. Both houses will vote soon to establish the committee, which will look at the big picture of how Congress works. The group will consist of four senators and four representatives from each party, plus four advisers from the private sector. It will begin work in January.

"Essentially I believe we have a system that minimizes the opportunity to be courageous. It diminishes the opportunity to lead and clearly it wilts the will power - too many committees, overlapping jurisdiction, complicated bills that have to go to four or five committees," says Sen. Pete Domenici (R) of New Mexico.

In a current example, he says, a comprehensive package to establish the relationship between the former Soviet Union and the United States over the next eight to 10 years would have to go through five Senate committees. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.