Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress on Sept. 18, 2014 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.
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How to fix Congress now

Updated

The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, 10/20/14, 3:42 PM ET

What Congress hates about Congress

Mark Warren, executive editor at Esquire magazine, talks about his experience interviewing 90 members of Congress.
Over two days in July 2014, Senator Tom Daschle, Representative Barney Frank, Representative Bob Livingston, Senator Trent Lott, and MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell convened in Washington, D.C., and came to unanimous consensus on the following recommendations to reform Congress for the 21st century. These five men led the Esquire Commission to Fix Congress, and came up with a series of 22 simple reforms that could #FixCongress now.

Here are Lawrence’s top five recommendations to reform Congress:

1. UPON CONSIDERATION OF A BILL IN THE SENATE, THERE SHALL BE AT LEAST TEN AMENDMENTS (IF OFFERED) IN ORDER, GIVEN IN ALTERNATING ORDER BETWEEN SENATORS OF BOTH PARTIES.

This would effectively prohibit the practice of “filling the tree,” a parliamentary tactic by which the Senate majority leader can block any amendments to a bill. There would be no requirement that such amendments be considered germane to the bill.

2. REQUIRE FORTY-ONE AFFIRMATIVE VOTES TO MAINTAIN A FILIBUSTER.

Rather than the current rule, which requires a supermajority of sixty votes to end a filibuster, this would require forty-one votes to maintain a filibuster.

3. END THE FILIBUSTER ON THE MOTION TO PROCEED, AND IN TURN LIMIT DEBATE ON THE MOTION TO TWO HOURS, DIVIDED EQUALLY BETWEEN THE TWO PARTIES.

Prior to a bill even reaching the Senate floor for debate, the majority leader must bring up the bill for consideration, and the current rules allow any member to filibuster (or threaten to filibuster) the bill at that point. This would eliminate that practice altogether and cap the amount of time spent debating the motion to proceed.

4. PROHIBIT INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF CONGRESS FROM ORGANIZING AND RUNNING PACS.

Although still able to raise funds for their own campaigns and for national organizations like the Democratic or Republican National Committees, members would be prohibited from raising and disbursing funds to other candidates through PACs.

5. RESTRICT THE ABILITY OF THE HOUSE RULES COMMITTEE TO REWRITE BILLS THAT HAVE ALREADY CLEARED COMMITTEE.

A bill can clear a committee with unanimous bipartisan support only to see its language altered by the House Rules Committee (often under the direction of the majority leader or Speaker) before it goes to the floor for a vote. This would limit such a practice.

Read the full Esquire Commission below.

Mark Warren, executive editor of Esquire magazine, spoke with 90 current members of Congress about the dysfunction and drama that exists in the Senate and the House, and what people don’t know about our elected leaders. His full piece is below. 

Congress

How to fix Congress now

Updated