110 bipartisan leaders: Congress needs to reform itself in wake of coronavirus

We hope that leaders in both chambers of Congress will boldly work to restore the institution.

110 bipartisan leaders: Congress needs to reform itself in wake of coronavirus

Editor's note:The following letter to Congress is signed by 110 former members of Congress, Cabinet secretaries, ambassadors and governors. The project was organized by the Issue One ReFormers Caucus, co-chaired by former U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Connie Morella, a Republican from Maryland; former U.S. Ambassador to India Tim Roemer, a Democrat from Indiana; and former Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn.

As former public servants and concerned American citizens, we are deeply worried about the twin threats of a pandemic combined with severe economic peril, and we strongly encourage our government to work together for common purpose for the United States.

First, we can all agree that our democratic republic must efficiently function and serve all Americans, especially those most vulnerable to sickness and those unemployed from devastating economic fallout. Recovery will demand the best of our spirit, determination and perseverance.

A trusted and effective Congress — one that lives up to its Article I duties — is a vital part of this solution.

Second, we hope America will unite in its efforts to protect people from contracting the virus, care for those who have taken ill and help others through painful economic hardship.

Furthermore, while there will be a deeply passionate and fully competitive election in November, let’s work to ensure fair and secure access to the ballot for all eligible voters.

We know history books will closely examine how our elected leaders handle this pandemic and what action is taken to strengthen our republic, and, in turn, prepare our institutions for the next national challenge.

Congress, to its credit, has acted quickly to pass three stimulus bills signed by President Donald Trump to address the COVID-19 crisis. However, both the House and Senate must make important institutional reforms to restore the people’s trust, work smarter and more securely with technology, retain and hire a diversified and highly trained staff, and spend more time performing their constituent jobs and less time raising campaign money.

Work has already begun to bring the House to the 21st century thanks to the bipartisan leadership of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, who recently passed nearly 30 recommendations to strengthen and modernize the House of Representatives. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and other House officials have devoted precious political capital to begin this modernization process, and we applaud and thank them for their efforts.

U.S. Capitol building as seen from side of front steps, with blue sky above.

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The Senate also needs to engage on these issues, and much more needs to be done to restore the institution overall. More than 70 former senators recently published a letter encouraging the Senate to explore efforts to work in a bipartisan fashion and exert their constitutional authority.

Build on pandemic relief efforts

Especially during this international health pandemic and looming global recession, it is critical that our elected leaders build on the bipartisanship of COVID-19 relief efforts and model the cooperation demonstrated by the evenly bipartisan group of 12 representatives of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, led by Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., and address the vital needs of the country. We are hopeful that once this crisis has subsided, there will be an even broader, bicameral conversation about reinforcing Congress’ Article I, Section I role as our nation’s primary legislative authority.

Strong Congress is essential

If this pandemic has taught us anything about our political system, it’s that a robust and resilient Congress — one that operates as the first branch of government — is essential to the safety and security of our republic and all its citizens. To quote Alexis de Tocqueville’s "Democracy in America," “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”

In this spirit, we hope that leaders in both chambers of Congress will harness the moments following this grave and uncertain time and boldly lead to restore the institution. Our country will be stronger for it.

Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Penn.

Rep. Les AuCoin, D-Ore.

Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash.

Rep. Mike Barnes, D-Md.

Rep. Gresham Barrett, R-S.C.

Rep. Charlie Bass , R-N.H.

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska

Rep. Douglas Bereuter, R-Neb.

Rep. Don Bonker, D-Wash.

Secretary Bill Brock, R-Tenn.

Gov. John Carlin, D-Kan.

Gov. Arne Carlson, R-Minn.

Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo.

Rep. Bob Carr, D-Mich.

Rep. John Cavanaugh, D-Neb.

Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Ky.

Rep. Rod Chandler, R-Wash.

Rep. William Clinger, R-Penn.

Rep. Tom Coleman, R-Mo.

Rep. Sam Coppersmith, D-Ariz.

Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill.

Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

Rep. Hal Daub, R-Neb.

Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn.

Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va.

Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Penn.

Rep. Charles Djou, R-Hawaii

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

Sen. Dave Durenberger, R-Minn.

Rep. Vic Fazio, D-Calif.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc.

Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn.

Ambassador Wyche Fowler, D-Ga.

Rep. Martin Frost, D-Texas

Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo.

Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md.

Secretary Dan Glickman, D-Kan.

Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas

Secretary Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind.

Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo.

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev.

Rep. Dennis Hertel, D-Mich.

Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H.

Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, D-N.Y.

Rep. Jerry Huckaby, D-La.

Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill.

Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

Sen. Bennett Johnston, D-La.

Rep. Barbara Kennelly, D-Conn.

Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz.

Rep. Mike Kopetski, D-Ore.

Rep. Steve Kuykendall, R-Calif.

Secretary Ray LaHood, R-Ill.

Rep. Martin Lancaster, D-N.C.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

Rep. Larry LaRocco, D-Idaho

Rep. Rick Lazio, R-NY

Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa

Rep. John LeBoutillier, R-N.Y.

Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Mich.

Rep. Mel Levine, D-Calif.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.

Rep. Andrew Maguire, D-N.J.

Rep. Marjorie Margolies, D-Penn.

Rep. Pete McCloskey, R-Calif.

Rep. Matthew McHugh, D-N.Y,

Gov. John McKernan, R-Maine

Rep. Tom McMillen, D-Md.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.

Secretary Norman Mineta, D-Calif.

Ambassador Connie Morella, R-Md.

Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla.

Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Penn.

Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C.

Rep. Glenn Nye, D-Va.

Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb.

Secretary Leon Panetta, D-Calfi.

Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wisc.

Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D.

Secretary Tom Ridge, R-Penn.

Gov. Bill Ritter, D-Colo.

Ambassador Tim Roemer, D-Ind.

Gov. Roy Romer, D-Colo.

Secretary Ed Schafer, R-N.D.

Rep. Claudine Schneider, R-R.I.

Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo.

Rep. Philip Sharp, D-Ind.

Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn.

Rep. Karen Shepherd, D-Utah

Rep. Jim Slattery, D-Kan.

Rep. Peter Smith, R-Vt.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine

Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla.

Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Texas

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-MIich.

Ambassador Richard Swett, D-N.H..

Rep. Robin Tallon, D-S.C.

Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn.

Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb.

Rep. Karen Thurman, D-FL

Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Sen. Tim Wirth, D-Colo.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/05/20/bipartisan-leaders-reform-congress-response-coronavirus-column/5219250002/

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