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Our Founders' Warning: “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.” (Thomas Jefferson)

Congressional Oversight by the People

Members of Congress enjoy an extraordinary lack of congressional oversight by the people to do exactly what they wish, such as telephone solicitation, setting their own perquisites, etc. using the Necessary and Proper Clause or Basket Clause.

The Constitution’s Framers realized that they could not anticipate and include all that Congress would need to do, so they added article 1, section 8, clause 18 (the “Necessary and Proper Clause” or “Basket Clause”) that allows Congress to: “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other

Members of Congress enjoy an extraordinary lack of congressional oversight by the people to do exactly what they wish, such as telephone solicitation, setting their own perquisites, etc. using the Necessary and Proper Clause or Basket Clause. However, their baseline salaries appear to be in order.
Congressional Salaries are in Order

Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”

This has allowed Congress to operate to the personal benefit and aggrandizement of its members. For example, Congress sets its own compensation and perquisites, lobbying revolving-door policy, ethics, personally beneficial use of donations, etc. There are no checks and balances on congressional behavior possible within our Constitutional framework when Congress determines what is Necessary and Proper Clause per the Basket Clause, e.g., permitting telephone solicitation. The only remaining possibility available is for the People to assume that responsibility and authority as and when necessary.

Oath of Office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.” 

Some examples of issues that the People may wish to address are:

  • Time spent raising election funds, and time spent working on and reading legislation. “…Congressional representative is expected to spend half of his or her working hours doing [telephone solicitation] at a secret phone bank near Capitol Hill. … they are essentially full-time telemarketers who are told that their top priority is to raise obscene amounts of money by [telephone solicitation].” (U.S. Term Limits)
  • The graph above show that Congressional Salaries are historically reasonable. The post Congressional lobbying income and perquisites are another matter.
  • Removing, updating, and simplifying existing legislation.
  • Lockstep voting along Party lines.
  • Extent of reading and level of knowledge of legislation on which they vote. This is correlated to the size of staff.
  • Size of staff “In 2000, every Representative hired 14 staff members, while the average Senator hired 34. In 2000, Representatives had a limit of 18 full-time and four part-time staffers; Senators had no limit on staff. Budgets for staff were determined by the population of the state; Senators from California, the most populous state, get more money for staff than Senators from Wyoming, the least populous state. Members can choose how to distribute staff between their Washington office and their United States congressional district home office or offices.” Courtesy © Wikipedia
  • Etc.

Congress is supposed to work for the People not vice versa. Because the People have been careless and absent managers in the past does not make this a permanent condition. Just the fact of being subject to congressional oversight can have a major impact on improving behavior. The availability of Initiatives makes management possible albeit at irregular intervals and often not as quickly as optimal. But just the awareness that bad behavior may well be known and punished is a major motivator to good behavior.

The instigators of the best proposed initiatives submitted to the IQA on this issue will probably come from insiders who know far more about what goes on in Congress than we do. After selecting the best, hopefully the IQA can handle them by Indirect Initiatives and submit them directly to Congress for appropriate action. Otherwise, the can be submitted to the People’s vote as Direct Legislative Initiatives.