3 simple but radical things Congress can learn from Texas
© Getty Images

The 2016 election finally came to an end. The people have spoken (especially rural Americans) and Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpEx-ethics chief calls on Trump to end 'monstrous' migrant policies Laura Bush blasts Trump migrant policy as 'cruel' and 'immoral' US denies report of coalition airstrike on Syria MORE is our president-elect.

The sun came up this morning; we remain a divided nation; our challenges have not gone away. We owe him and the new Congress our support and our prayers.

ADVERTISEMENT
Peggy Noonan recently wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal that caught my attention: "A World in Crisis and No Genius in Sight." She used examples of "genius clusters" during times of war in our history, but started with George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, James Monroe, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, a group that came together in Philadelphia and worked night and day to invent something new in the history of man.

Very little was in agreement when they started, but in the end, the majority signed off on the compromises that became the Constitution of the United States.

(Interestingly, 33 percent of eligible voters opposed the ratification of the Constitution, even with a Bill of Rights included.)

Noonan wrote that "it is now a world crying out for bigness, wisdom, steady hands, and steady eyes." I agree!We could use a 21st-century genius cluster.

What held America's first cluster together was a strong respected leader: George Washington. He inspired.

But our forefathers did not want a king; that's why they created three separate but co- equal branches of government.

The Congress just elected remains the only entity that can solve our country's greatest challenges — beginning with the $19.4 trillion debt, which will grow by at least $580 billion next year, and the $110 trillion in unfunded liabilities growing at an unsustainable pace.

Fortunately, we each have a voice in creating the 2017 genius cluster. Our own U.S. representative or senators. They have a blueprint to work from — the Constitution they swear to uphold — and a responsibility to work.

Just as our Founding Fathers worked night and day to draft the Constitution, so too a return to a work ethic in Congress would be helpful. Instead of spending 60 percent three days a week raising money for the next election, and 40 percent of those same 3 days legislating, why not consider something truly radical?

Not a simple pledge like "I will never raise your taxes or touch Social Security"; that renders anyone who makes it impotent for governing.

But a truly radical one:

1. I acknowledge that the job you have elected me to is in Washington, and I look forward to going there and going to work.

2. The day after I am sworn in, I will go to work on the committees I have been appointed to, and will work 9-5 and overtime and weekends when necessary to get the work done on time.

For example, the budget for 2018 by April 15; all appropriations by Sept. 30.

All committees will need to begin the process of examining closely the spending, revenues and regulations that occur in their jurisdictions and how relevant and helpful to the budget process. Everything has to be on the table, and compromise must cease being a four-letter word and an excuse for gridlock.

Tax reform, cutting unnecessary spending and regulations, reforming healthcare, encouraging growth and job creation, creating sustainable energy and food policy, enacting immigration reform, and maintaining the U.S. participation in world trade are just few areas of needed improvement.

3. The first bill that I co-sponsor and vote for is a simple bill that will make it illegal to make or receive a contribution for my next election until Oct. 1, 2017.

This will also apply to the first nine months of every future Congress until replaced by something better.

Texas just elected and reelected 36 members of the House of Representatives. We currently have six committee chairs in the House and the majority whip in the Senate. The Texas delegation currently its most powerful since the days of then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson, Speaker Sam Rayburn, and Reps. George Mahon, Will Poage, Omar Burleson, "Tiger" Teague and Wright Patman.

Power, though, is useless unless used to achieve desired results.

The Texas Legislature offers a model for Congress, though. State senators and representatives go to Austin, where their job are, for 140 days and adjourn on June 1 having gotten their work done. It is illegal to make or receive a political contribution while they are in session.

If it is good enough for Texas, it could be great for America. The Texas delegation could become a significant part of the 21st-century genius cluster the people of America are hoping for — but only if joined by a majority of their colleagues on both sides of the isle.

But it will require hard work, long hours, and agonizing compromise, just as it did for those who gave America the blueprint to be followed.

Yogi Berra again summed it up best: "I tell the kids somebody's gotta win. Somebody's gotta lose. Just don't fight about it. Just try to get better!"

Stenholm is a former U.S. representative from Texas, serving from 1979 to 2005. He is currently a senior policy adviser at Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.