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The Big Fix

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) hold a news conference to launch the bipartisan Fix Congress Now Caucus on May 16.

If you view the inability of Congress to get much of anything done as a partisan death match interfering with the wondrous workings of the legislative branch, the Fix Congress Now Caucus is right up your alley.

As the public, egged on by the press, grows more and more frustrated with what it sees as the lack of compromise and civility in Congress, Republican Reps. Scott Rigell (Va.) and Reid Ribble (Wis.) and Democratic Reps. Jim Cooper (Tenn.) and Kurt Schrader (Ore.) are looking in the mirror — and seeing some of their colleagues.

With a pledge to “fix Congress now,” the four Members launched the cleverly named Fix Congress Now Caucus in May, with an agenda that includes “reforming the benefits of Congress, addressing the inefficient and unaccountable budgeting process that leaves the country without a budget year after year, and finally, elevating the debate from the bitter partisanship now rampant in Washington,” according to a press release issued by the caucus, which lists 10 members on its website. (Schrader and Cooper are the only Democrats.) 

“Under our Constitution, only Congress has the power to heal itself,” said Cooper, a Blue Dog and outspoken supporter of reintroducing compromise into the Congressional vocabulary. “The president and the Supreme Court can’t do it for us. Now, voters have the power to heal it, but they only get the chance every two years. So Congress needs to embrace reforms.” 

One of the primary solutions Cooper sees to jump-starting Congressional productivity is the No Budget, No Pay Act, a bill he introduced that would withhold pay to Members of Congress until both the House and the Senate agree to a budget and appropriations bills before Oct. 1 of that same fiscal year. 

“Congressional reform is a lot like veterinary medicine,” Cooper said. “You have to get the horse or the dog to take the pill. And it can’t be too big a pill or too distasteful or otherwise they’ll spit it out. And it needs to be strong enough to work. No Budget, No Pay is strong enough to work.”

Ribble said the caucus is a “vehicle to correct the systemic dysfunction that has plagued Washington,” a sentiment that Cooper echoed.

“The caucus is kind of the vanguard of change,” Cooper told Roll Call. “With No Budget, No Pay, we have 51 co-sponsors now in the House and 10 in the Senate, so I think the momentum is there.”

Though Cooper said a number of Members have come forward wanting to participate in the caucus and its mission since the May 16 launch, the group has an uphill battle in seeking to change the status quo. 

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