The current form of government in the United States is not truly a democracy. Congressmen are, of course, democratically elected. However, they do not fulfill the democratic duty of representing the interests of their constituents. Voters do not elect these people into office on the assumption that they will use their party bonds to stifle any political action. To counter-act the inefficiencies in Congress, Republicans in the House of Representatives have proposed a bold new plan.
The plan would essentially entail Republicans conceding to increase the debt ceiling without calling for spending cuts for three months. If, within those three months, a budget was not passed, Democrat representatives would have their pay docked.
This plan has been halted by calls from across party lines claiming that this is unconstitutional as it violates the 27th amendment which does not allow for changing pay of Congressmen during their terms.
Of course, despite this legal loophole, this three month “no budget, no pay” plan as it has been dubbed, is greatly immoral and verges on political corruption. After all, it would lead Democrats to misrepresent their constituents simply to get paid; Republicans could exploit this to pass a strongly conservative budget.
Despite the impossibility of this specific plan being used to solve Washington’s woes, it does lead to many interesting ideas. I, as a student involved in government simulations such as Model U.N. and Model Congress, understand that political deals, especially those on the scale of a budget, take time. However, I also realize that in the case of Washington, excess time is wasted due to partisan squabbling.
Thus, I think that Congressmen’s salaries being dependent upon their ability to compromise will positively impact our government. A similar strategy was employed quite effectively under British rule. Under British rule, in order to prevent political stalemates, colonial Congresses had the power to control the pay of the British royal governors who acted, quite like an opposing party, to essentially squash the autonomy and laws passed by Congresses. This worked remarkably well with Royal governors treasuring their power to veto in select cases and otherwise allowing the political process to function well.
Now, in the United States, a similar concept could be instituted (albeit for the next term to avoid the legal loophole of the 27th amendment). It is unclear exactly who would control Congress members’ salaries. It couldn’t be the president as that could lead to political corruption and a greater imbalance in power between branches, nor could it be either party within the Congress. Instead, a new branch of government compromised of a body of nonpartisan members would need to be formed. Each year, this body would create a reasonable set of goals for Congressmen, allowing time for stalemates that are a necessary evil of democracy. It would lay out the penalties for failing to achieve each of the goals in order to give each side a incentive. It would operate, in a way, like the Fiscal Cliff deadline motivating Congressmen to concede negotiable policies that they otherwise would not do. The fear is that, as with the Fiscal cliff, this will lead to ‘band-aid’ solutions, that do not actually fix anything. It is entirely possible that Congressmen will only do the minimum necessary to get to the next year with their salaries intact
Yet, we will only know how effective these deterrents would be if they were implemented temporarily. One thing is for sure: the status quo of stalemate after stalemate is not acceptable. The idea of controlling Congressmen’s salaries based on their productivity is only one way to enhance the American political process.