Social Media allows for Congress to meet from their home states


Give the people the home-court advantage
By Ralph Benko

We send our elected representatives far from home to conduct The People’s business. We send them to Washington, D.C. where they form what our flyboys (and flygirls) call “a target-rich environment” for the lobbyists and for the political party leadership.

We send them far from us … to conduct our business. There was no other way in the 18th, 19th, and most of the 20th century. In the 21st century, of course, this is absurd.

As things now stand, it is too easy for lobbyists and party leadership to “get at” our elected legislators. And too hard — impossible, on a concentrated basis — for voters to spend “face time” with their representatives.

We plain folks, and our representatives, would be well-served by changing the rule requiring our legislators to vote from the floor of Congress. And this could be done by a simple rule change, no legislation or constitutional amendment required.

The Constitution simply provides that “a majority of each [chamber] shall constitute a quorum to do business” and does not even specify “present,” much less what that would mean in the 21st century of webcams, Skype, videoconferencing, broadband internet or other technologies out there. The rules of both the House and Senate provide that a quorum is assumed unless a quorum call shows that it is not.

Sheer proximity is a very powerful thing. Lobbyists consider “face time” the crown jewel of their pursuit. Proximity is a soft force, but a powerful one. In sports parlance, it’s called “the home court advantage.”

By a simple rule change, our legislators could give themselves permission to vote from their district offices. Not require it. Simply permit it. From there, they could tele-speak, by Web, and tele-listen, by Web.

Now, they listen by closed circuit TV and speak rarely enough. They could speak more conveniently, and thus more often, by Webcam than they do now, and from home.

In fact, they could invite their constituents to form a “studio audience,” changing the chemistry rather dramatically.) They could make a district office home-base for most of their staff, instead of doing it backwards, as now. (Jobs for constituents! What a concept!)

Travel is such a hassle, the cost of maintaining two homes beyond the reach of most of our legislators. Under such a rule, it is highly likely that a lot of members would vote, more and more often, from their district offices. (Many of their wives, or husbands, would see to it!)

More time in the District means less in D.C., and it would be a lot harder, and more expensive (all that travel!) for the lobbyists to smooth talk them and for party leadership to twist their arms.

At home, they would be much more in touch with the people who they represent. With much less wear and tear.

Of course, they would still come in to “the office,” to confer with one another whenever useful, attend major ceremonial occasions, committee meetings when important issues are genuinely at stake, hear out the lobbyists, raise money, get on TV, even play poker or attend prayer breakfasts (depending, of course, on party affiliation) with their colleagues. This would tip a balance. Right now, it’s easy for the lobbyists to get at them in concentrated doses and hard for constituents to get heard.

Legislators! Give yourselves permission to vote from your district offices: Amend Rule XX. Only the (unfairly maligned) lobbyists and the (fairly maligned) party leadership lose.

For them … our pillows will be soaked with tears. For the people … and for you … it’s win-win. Give the home court advantage back to your homies!

Join the People Powered Congress social site here.

Ralph Benko, a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC, is the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, the eBook of which may be downloaded without charge from He has given himself permission to work from a home office, where he gets far more accomplished than at “the office.”

From the Washington Examiner


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