Olympia Snowe: How to fix the stalemate in Congress

Former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe

Former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe

Editor’s note: Congresswoman Olympia Snowe, a Republican from Maine, has served in the U.S. Senate  since 1995. Earlier this year she left the Senate out of  her frustration with the constant stalemate in Congress and inability to get things done. On May 14, her political memoir, Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress, was  released. Her book comes out as new polls show that only 15 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling the nation’s business. 

I’m excited by this opportunity to let the American people know that, when it comes to the dysfunction in Washington, it doesn’t have to be this way – and we can take action!

Writing a book was never something that was on my radar throughout my tenure in elective office. In fact, as I tell people, about the only thing that was more surprising to me than when I decided not to seek re-election to the Senate was deciding to write a book!

But when I announced I wasn’t running for re-election, it was as if my belief that government could no longer be changed from the inside affirmed the feeling of millions of Americans that the system has gone seriously awry. Everywhere I traveled, people approached me from all over American and expressed disappointment that I was leaving the Senate, but understood my reasons.

These individuals I’ve encountered are angry, fed up, and fearful that the current dysfunction that’s preventing us from solving our most challenging problems will continue as a permanent culture. They ask me, why is it so bad in Washington? How did it get this way? And can it be fixed?

That’s why I wrote this book, for those countless Americans in every town and city in this nation who clearly hunger for a government that works and the means for accomplishing that goal.

As I’ve told people, I didn’t leave the Senate because I know longer love it, but precisely because I do. I just want to bring my insider’s experience and knowledge to bear as a megaphone for those on the outside who are thirsting for a voice to coalesce their frustration, and a plan on how to change the system so it can achieve the extraordinary potential our Founding Fathers envisioned.

And given my 34 years in the Congress as a consensus-builder, I have a unique perspective to be able to assure people that it doesn’t have to be this way, here’s how we have been able to rise to confront big problems in the past, and here’s how we can do so again.

That’s critical, because there are a host of issues that simply will not be resolved without bipartisanship – from our budget deficits and federal debt, to immigration reform, to an overhaul of our broken tax code and reform of our entitlement programs to ensure their continued strength and solvency.

I write in my book, there are no magic wands with respect to changing our government. But there is a multiplicity of steps that we can take, and the changes I recommend can be broken down into two broad categories: Senate rules and congressional procedures and campaign finance and political reform.

In the Senate rules reform I talk about filibuster reform, banning secret holds on legislation, and a more open amendment process.

In overall congressional reform I include “no budget, no pay,” biennial budgeting, 5-day work weeks, restoring regular order by returning to doing business through committees, and establishing a bipartisan Leadership Committee—all of which would address many of the barriers to working across the political aisle that have developed in the last decade.

On the political front I believe we need campaign finance reform and independent state redistricting committees when the Congressional districts are drawn after the 2020 census.

We can reclaim a solutions-oriented government if we demand these kinds of reforms, and provide a political reward at the ballot box for those who are willing to work across the political aisle to forge solutions, and a political penalty for those who don’t. I hope you’ll check out my book and join the fight to make government work again!

One Response to Olympia Snowe: How to fix the stalemate in Congress

  1. Larry P. Smith Reply

    May 23, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    I respect Olympia Snowe and I believe that she is sincere in her desire for consensus building and developing a better working relationship with the other side. Hwever, when the President and the leader of the Senate are unwilling to alter their position, no progress can be made. Ms. Snowe, while in the Senate, attempted to be a cohesive force and even voted to apease the other side. Her attempts were futile because, each time, the other side was unwilling to negotiate a reasonable solution and blamed it on the Tea Party. Republican leadership has shown a willingness to negotiate in good faith but, until Democrat ieadership is willing to do the same, Ms. Snowe`s solution is little more than a pipe dream.
    One need only avoid the rhetoric and news reports and look at the facts.

    We need bipartinship but, “bi” means two. Need more be said!

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