U.S. Rep. David Jolly: Congress should spend more days in session

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I believe in the radical notion that Congress should work. Congress should govern.

And Congress should work more, not less.

Republicans, Democrats and Independents in Congress should all have a part in the process. Each member, having been elected by their community of approximately 700,000, should have an opportunity to contribute to the legislative process that ultimately determines the future of our country.

I’ve had the privilege to represent Florida’s 13th Congressional District for just over four months. Like most other first-time candidates, I ran against the dysfunction and the discord in Washington. Once elected, however, members of Congress must not resign themselves to that dysfunction. We must fix it.

So what do we do?  First, we return to regular order. We return to legislating. Bills should be fully heard in committee. Members of both parties should be permitted to offer amendments and to be heard.

This simple adherence to regular order will by itself soften the vitriol and the rhetoric across the aisle, because win or lose, all members will have the opportunity to be heard.

Here’s the good news. The House, under strong leadership of the Speaker, has made remarkable progress in returning to regular order. For all of the President’s complaining about Congress, the fact is that the House has passed over 300 bills that sit in the Senate unheard, victims of the Senate majority’s inaction. The House has also engaged in a regular order, open amendment budget process this year, allowing hundreds of amendments to be offered by the minority party. The Senate should follow suit.

And the President must himself remember that he is vested with the Article II authority of the Presidency, not the Article I authority of the Congress. We have equal branches, each vested with responsibility to act.

Congress sets its agenda based on the priorities it believes are right for our country, just as the President pursues his agenda. It is time the President stop the rhetoric and politicking, and realize a simple truth — Mr. President, you do your job, we in Congress will do ours.

And despite any frustration the President may have that the House opposes his agenda, he should remember that he does not have the privilege to, as one of the current Democratic senators recently said, “borrow” the Article I authority of the Congress.

And so accountability must go both ways. Both parties, both branches of government, should do better.

Finally, I am often asked about the most important impression I have as a new member of Congress. And it’s this. We should be in session more. We cannot rightfully address the many concerns of the American people if we are not in session.

By increasing the days that we are in session, I believe we will create an environment where Republicans, Democrats and Independents can work together, substantively, thoroughly, and with great deliberation.  We will create a Congress that works.

U.S. Rep. David Jolly represents Congressional District 13. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.