Creative Solutions for a Frustrated Nation

Friday, February 26, 2010

All week we’ve been exploring the mechanics of a broken legislative body in our series, “Frustration Nation.” We wrap up the series with a look at the solutions to government gridlock. Can we move away from filibusters? Should we rehaul our election rules? Should we get rid of the Senate altogether?

We hear some creative ideas from Nate Persily, professor of law and political science at Columbia University and Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African American studies at Princeton University. 

Let us know what you would do. How would you amend the U.S. Constitution to make government work?


Melissa Harris-Perry and Nate Persily

Hosted by:

Lynn Sherr

Produced by:

Hsi-Chang Lin

Comments [19]

Bank from Virginia

Not enough discussion of the ability to whole a constitutional convention as allowed under Article V. Larry Sabato's book of a few years back entitled A More Perfect Constitution should be a must read for anyone who wonders how to address the number of antiquated aspects of our federal system. The founding fathers anticipated the need for major changes to the Constitution, that is why they made provision for it. Do we have so little confidence in ourselves that we do not feel we can be trusted to create or modify the government to better suit the reality of today. Read Sabato's book and you will see that it is not as scary a process as one might initially think. Remember, the Constitution was a re-write after the original Federation shows itself unworkable. Don't look to Congress to introduce any amendment that would change the money-for-power system those in Washington thrive in.

Feb. 27 2014 10:04 AM

Guest on the show said that we should replace the Senate but that we can't because of Article V, which is not quite right. It says: "no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate". We could ratify an amendment to change the Senate, but it would have to pass unanimously. I think we should try, because it's the right thing to do.

Many commenters want term limits, but that is anti-democratic. It means sometimes the people can't get the representative they want. We should have _more_ democracy, not less. We need rankings ballots so that I can safely vote for the new interesting candidate over the old fuddy duddy.

Mar. 01 2010 06:32 PM
Cleo L.

Give term limits to Congress and move away from filibusters because it is not democratic for one member to keep the full
senate from voting on a bill.
I really think Congress spends too much time preparing elections than working for us.They have too much power.

Cleo L., Thanks!

Feb. 28 2010 05:00 PM
Wayne Erfling

The 800 pound gorilla in the room is that we're ignoring our place in the world. We spend all our time talking about ourselves and each other. It's ridiculous.

Here's an idea for The Take Away itself. For one month, in every policy debate, include one conservative, one democrat and one FOREIGNER.

Almost the only time we acknowledge the existence of other countries is to reject their solutions. Even Obama caved in to this "not invented here" culture when he started the healthcare debate. He talked about "a uniquely American solution".

Why do we insist on taking away from the world's best ideas, when we could be adding to them instead?

Feb. 28 2010 07:02 AM

I have 3 ideas.
1) Filibuster, To be able to do it you must have not only your parties 100 % support but plus 10 or 15% of the the opposing parties support totalling 55-45 in the Senatefor filbuster.
Thats much more democratic to me.
2) Eventually, because of the system of House bill and Senate bills being separately drafted it is an integral part of the system, that reconciliation is automatic. The only rule is the ultimate cost per CBO to the deficit is lower, or the savings per CBO are greater than or less as noted of either Senate or House bills as reconciled.
3) 2 Above has a committee time limit of 3 months and a vote date ADVANCE notification of 2 weeks where a quorum is 10% OF THE HOUSE AND SENATE!

Feb. 27 2010 03:07 AM
Mike from Colorado

Term Limits: Four terms for Representatives, Two terms for Senators.

Limit Campaigning Time. Campaigns should not begin until May 1. No fund raising, advertising, campaign speeches or primary elections until after May 1. The election cycle is much too long. We sent our congressional representatives to Washington, DC to do the publics business, not to start running for re-election the day after they get there.

Limit Campaign Contributions: Individuals and Corporations can only donate a fixed amount to an individual candidate. Corporation and individuals can only donate once thru PACs, Trade Associations, or special interest group for or against a candidate or issue. No individual or group should be able to hide behind multiple donations to multiple political front groups. All donations given to influence elections, congressional actions or government policy must be publicly reported. This would include money spent on lobbying congress and government agencies.

The status of Corporation “personhood” must be changed to limit their political influence. First Amendment Rights (which Corporations need and deserve) do not translate into unlimited political spending.

Amend Senate Rules to eliminate the filibuster.

Feb. 26 2010 04:16 PM
EvelynC. from WA state

Dear Nick Bacon: First of all, congratulations on your new US citizenship! It's been said before and it's true, most of us who were born here could literally not pass 'the test'. :^> Secondly, thank you for an informed/informative comment.

Dear TT staff: I think Mr. Bacon would be an interesting, ongoing citizen commentator on your show -- much like that nice guy from the Midwest(?) you frequently contact(ed).

Feb. 26 2010 11:29 AM
D Gram from Miami, Florida

I disagree with a caller to the program who felt that 18 year olds should not be involved in the voting process because they are not property owners, probably don't work, and generally are detached from the high-brow concerns of adults. 18 year olds have a vested interest in voting. It is extremely important that 18 year olds get involved in the voting process because they have tuition bills, room and board bills, medical bills, they are subject to rules and regulations mandated by the government. My daughter turned 18 in 2009 and voted for the first time. People in the polling station paused and applauded all the 18-year-old first time voters. Healthcare is another issue of importance to young people who are often left uncovered by their parents' insurance after they are done with college. 18 year olds have the right to vote. Yipee!!

Feb. 26 2010 10:07 AM
Tyler from Connecticut

Add term limits to the Senate and Congress eliminating these life long Politicians who inevitably are corrupted by the corporate interests that be.

Feb. 26 2010 10:04 AM
Nick Bacon from New York City

I am a New American, having been a Citizen for 4 months; I was formerly British.

From my - admittedly limited - reading of American history I think that the problem is that the Founding Fathers were against the idea of political parties, so the Constitution does not allow for them . They didn't want the entrenchment of ideas into political dogma that comes with a two party system but sadly, this is an ideal that has yet to be achieved and never will be until the two party system is abolished which is unlikely.

The saddest part of all this is that we are currently fighting two wars in which we're seeking to impose democracy on other countries. If I were an Iraqi or Afghan I would be looking at the spoilt schoolkid type bickering in Congress and the cesspools of corruption and ask if I really wanted that for my country. True democracy requires a level of compromise that neither Democrat nor Republican politician seems prepared to allow.

There is no simple answer. As Winston Churchill - a citizen of both the UK and the US said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried."

Feb. 26 2010 09:32 AM
Blake Geno from Boston, MA

I propose an amendment to limit the terms of both the House and the Senate.

Feb. 26 2010 09:20 AM
Don Solomon from Boston, MA

We desperately need to reverse the Supreme Court's recent decision giving corporations and money the rights usually reserved to people and votes. Here's my proposal:

"Corporations and other business and nonprofit entities shall be subject to such restrictions on their formation, governance and operations as may be prescribed by the United States, by the state under whose laws they are formed, and by any state in which they conduct their operations."

Feb. 26 2010 09:17 AM
David Howley from Franklin, MA

Here is my proposal for the 28th Amendment to the US Constitution:

The United States Governement will balance its budget across all of its functions and departments each fiscal year unless (a) there is a declaration of War by Congress which has not been rescinded, or (b) the United States has experienced negative growth in its gross domestic product in a quarter of a particular fiscal year as measured by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Feb. 26 2010 08:58 AM
A. Patriot from Michigan

The constitution needs no amendment to make the Government work. Everything needed to make the government work is already there. What the Constitution needs is for more americans to make sure our elected representitives follow what is written within it, and to make sure our judicial system provide stiff penalties for those representitives who do not follow it.

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. “

Quote-The Declaration of Independence

Feb. 26 2010 08:31 AM
Josh from Royal Oak, MI

I think that the most significant problem in Washington is the obstinate partisanship, as well as politicians who are constantly "in campaign mode" and playing to their party base.

I would like to see the election process changed. Under the current system, few politicians can make it to general election without pandering to hardline members of their party, and this extends well beyond the election year. The result is what we saw yesterday -- two political parties completely incapable of working together -- broken government.

I would like to see a system where the two largest vote takers move on to the general election, regardless of their political party. This would perhaps encourage more centrist politicians to run for office and would give them a stronger chance to win. It may even encourage the growth of new and innovative political parties.

Feb. 26 2010 08:29 AM
Henry from Rochester Hills MI

One should be very cautious about changing the Constitution to solve short-term political problems. The gridlock is a political issue. We the People need to hold our leaders to a higher standard. The politicians play the games that they do because we, the voters, reward them for it.
The news media did not cause the gridlock but are enablers. They need to challenge those who just say "no" to say what they really stand for, to say what their solution is? Inaccuracies and falsehoods need to be exposed in a TIMELY fashion. On both issues the news media as a whole have a dismal track record.,
The Constitution just sets the ground rules: politics are our responsibility.

Feb. 26 2010 08:16 AM
Keith Erskine from Massachusetts

Add to Article I Section 2: No person shall be elected Representative more than four times, and no person who was a Representative or acted as Representative, for more than one year of a term to which some other person was elected Representative shall be elected as a Representative more than three times.

Add to Article I Section 3: No person shall be elected Senator more than two times, and no person who was a Senator or acted as Senator, for more than three years of a term to which some other person was elected Senator shall be elected as a Senator more than one time.

Feb. 26 2010 07:40 AM
Diane from Scarsdale, NY

I would amend the constitution to ban all campaign contributions from any individual or entity to federal election candidates (corporations, pacs, unions) and to provide for federal funding of elections limited to print ads for the 90 day period before the election and three free televised debates. The amount of campaign funding would be determined based upon the population in the election district for the applicable office as determined by the last census. Candidates would be required to sign all print ads.

Feb. 26 2010 07:12 AM
Alvena Ferreira from Western KY

Congressmen are acting like Parliamentarians. I think we should have a parliament-styled government, wherein the president can dissolve the parliament if they are not productive, and can order new elections. These congress-critters are way to secure in their positions, they need to know that if they don't produce, we can replace. Maybe that would stimulate them to do more than sit there and argue their socks off while the people continue to suffer.

Feb. 26 2010 07:02 AM

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