From The Desk of the Old Timer

by Bob Cary

Since the national election, there has been considerable discussion in the press and on TV concerning something called “reaching across the aisle,” the idea being that the Republicans, Democrats and any odd Independents, should put their partisanship aside and extend the hand of friendship in a spirit of cooperation.<BR><BR>Frankly, there are no hands to grip. Any Senator or Representative who attends a session of Congress will find no one for whom to reach.<BR><BR>This is the way both houses attend sessions. Or, rather, do not attend sessions. One of the most disappointing events witnessed by visitors to either of these august bodies of democracy is that when the Congress is “in session,” it really isn’t. No one is there. Well, not exactly. The presiding officers are there - Speaker of the House and President of the Senate. One other person is present - whichever member of the Congress with business before one or other of these houses and wishes his views recorded in the Congressional Record or presented on film to the folks back home.<BR><BR>TV cameras show the Senator or Representative at the podium, expounding upon whatever subject is his or her immediate concern. However, the camera is careful not to show anything on wide screen, because the viewer would see an empty chamber, just rows of vacant seats and the lone legislator stupidly orating away at no one at all.<BR><BR>Certainly it would be hardly worthwhile for the entire House of Representatives or the full Senate to spend much time on some of the drivel propounded from the podium of either body. But that is not the fault of the voters who sent them there. It is, we are told, a fault of the “system.”<BR><BR>Is that so? Then who set up the system?<BR><BR>We are paying generous salaries to Senators and Representatives for their work. A requirement of that work should be that they attend sessions of whichever branch they belong. Certainly, we would not have a truck driver in our employ who never drives a truck, nor a teacher who is never in class. <BR><BR>The first order of business for the new Congress should be to insist that the people we elect show up for work. If they are Senators, they be required to attend the Senate and if they are Representatives, they should be seated in the House. It is their job to discuss and debate issues publicly on the floor of those meeting places. <BR><BR>The next order of business for the new Congress should be that a law be passed to the effect that they are paid strictly upon attendance. On those days they chose not to attend, neither they nor their staff get paid. Nothing .Zero.<BR><BR>This current matter of absence, showing absolute contempt for the democratic process, is not acceptable. If those gentlemen and ladies of the House and Senate cannot afford time to attend sessions, then they should take up some other field of endeavor, not pretend to represent the voters.<BR><BR>It could be argued that much of what occurs in the now empty Congress is not worth listening to. But if all the members of the House and Senate were required to attend, you can bet that there would be considerable effort to restrict the drivel and focus on that which is important to the republic.<BR><BR>Our Congress was envisioned by the Founding Fathers as a debating body where ideas could be presented and discussed, somewhat like the British Parliament, not a clearing house where its elected members send over proxy votes on issues affecting the whole country.<BR><BR>To heck with proxies. What we need is live TV coverage of the Congress showing both chambers. If the benches are empty, so be it. Let the people back home see the “no shows.” We may elect some very bright or some pretty dumb people to office, but at the very least we should insist they show up for work.