My favorite political reality game show â€” my congressman’s “Fix Washington Project” â€” has entered the voting stage.
S&R readers might recall that Rep. John R. “Randy” Kuhl, R-N.Y., in June sent me and his other constituents a franked, four-color mailer announcing his latest scheme for improving government (you know, the task that taxpayers pay him and his 434 House confreres $169,000 a year each to accomplish).
His gimmick: Voters should send him their ideas for “fixing Washington”; he and his staff would select the top five and put them up for a vote on his House Web site. After “voting” ends Sept. 12, the winner, as Rep. Kuhl wrote in his monthly e-mailed newsletter, the Kuhl Khronicle, “will be introduced on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. I am thrilled to see my constituents getting directly involved in the legislative process.”
The continuing unconscionable abdication of independent, intelligent thought by my representative in Congress leaves me dumbfounded.
As I wrote in June, it’s no surprise he’s needed his constituents’ help. According to the Library of Congress’ Thomas database, Rep. Kuhl has introduced only 17 bills in the 110th Congress. Many are honorifics and procedurals or bills with no or few co-sponsors. (Give him credit, however, for seeking to extend SCHIP funding.)
It’s worth nothing, however, that his constituents â€” more than 400 submitted ideas â€” came up with some sound proposals (at least the top five, as picked by Rep. Kuhl and his staff).
Here they are, precisely as listed on Rep. Kuhl’s House Web site:
1. Make Stop-Loss illegal. Suggested by Andrew Anissi, Pittsford, NY (Stop-Loss is an involuntary extension of oneâ€™s military service, typically at the end of a tour of duty, due to unit requirements.)
2. Allocate a percentage of NASAâ€™s annual funding to go toward studying alternative energy. Suggested by Elaine Johnson, Pittsford, NY
3. Award a $75 million dollar prize to the college, university, or private sector organization that finds an economically viable alternative for gasoline. Suggested by Cindy Bacchetta, Pittsford, NY
4. Make universal default on credit cards illegal. Suggested by David Matz, Bonaventure, NY. (A Universal Default Clause states that a creditor can raise your interest rate if you have been late on any of your loans.)
5. Impose term limits on all members of Congress. U.S. Representatives should be limited to six two-year terms (12yrs) and U.S. Senators to two six-year terms (12yrs). Suggested by Armand Marianetti, Farmington; John Gobe, Stanley; Peter Haidt, Pittsford; Mary Kelly, Ellicottville; Janis Becker, Caneadea; Martin Adduci, Machias; Dave Zacharias, Canandaigua; Robert Rutt, Rochester; Alexander Hoffarth, Rochester; Duane Granger, Pittsford
They’re all good ideas. But why did he need constituents’ help in bringing them to the floor of the House? It’s as if none of these had ever occurred to him or his staff â€” otherwise, presumably, he would have already filed legislation to promote them.
Rep. Kuhl has frequently boasted of regularly communicating with his constituents. In fact, he pledged when running for election and re-election that would he visit each town and village in his district. And he’s done so: “I held a public Town Meeting in every Town in the 29th Congressional District each years [sic] since being sworn-in to office. That’s 145 town meetings every year!”
So what? He has rarely reported on the issues discussed at those meetings, and journalists rarely cover them. His legislative record suggests nothing of public-policy substance occurred in each of those 145 “town meetings” during his terms in office. Hence, it seems, he has turned to his constituents to “fix Washington.”
Questions abound here. Rep. Kuhl has a lifetime rating of 82 percent by the American Conservative Union. His voting record displays staunch support of President Bush. So how were the winning entries selected? On what basis? Was any ideological litmus test applied?
I don’t know, because the congressman’s Web site doesn’t say. Not only that, each of these ideas is not exactly new or innovative. They’ve all been in the hopper of public opinion for some time. Did his “Fix Washington Project” result from a need to be perceived as innovative and responsive to constituents because he’s in a tough re-election fight against a viable Democrat? And because he trails his challenger in fundraising?
Should you wish to actually vote for one of the ideas, do so here. (You’ll notice, however, that it requires you to provide an e-mail address â€” an inelegant way to increase Rep. Kuhl’s database of recipients of the Kuhl Khronicle.)
Stay tuned; when a winner’s selected, I’ll report it here.
I, of course, voted for No. 5 â€” term limits. I want to amend the bill, however, to limit incompetent House members to two terms: That would prevent my representative in Congress from further insulting constituents’ intelligence after this term ends.
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Read more about Rep. Kuhl’s “ideas” on public policy:
â€¢ High gas prices? My congressman has a plan â€” blame Democrats.
â€¢ My congressmanâ€™s â€˜bestâ€™ idea? A legislative game show.
â€¢ My congressmanâ€™s advice on oil, gas prices â€¦ not so good.
â€¢ Bill to cut federal gas tax? Bad idea, bad public policy.