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Tim was among the first to call for new leadership in Congress. He did so in July 2017.
He is listed as one of 51 Democrats opposed to Nancy Pelosi serving another term as the Democratic leader. NBC News reported on Friday on the Democratic candidates demanding change in their party’s congressional leadership.
It’s a position Tim has taken, and repeated, for months. He is running a campaign based on change and fundamental reform and said Pelosi and other long-entrenched congressional leaders cannot be expected to fix the mess they helped create.
From the NBC News report: 34. Tim Bjorkman (D-SD-AL) Campaign website (3/13/2018)
My next promise to the people of South Dakota is one I made months ago: that I will support a Constitutional Amendment imposing Term Limits on Congress, six years in the House and twelve in the Senate, to include any service prior to the amendment’s adoption, which would send home roughly half of all incumbents as their current terms end.
Here’s the problem: Congress has an approval rating that hovers between 10 and 15%, incumbents have re-election rates of over 90%. That suggests we have a hard time firing people who we think are doing a lousy job for us. A major reason for this is that corporate and special interests supply those they control with massive amounts of PAC and other money to keep them in office.
Today we have members of Congress from both parties who have served for 30, 40, and even 50 years there. This isn’t what the founding fathers had in mind. Instead, the Constitution’s framers envisioned public servants who would “lay down their plows for a season of service” and then return to their communities to again live as one of the governed.
The reality of human nature is that the longer people spend time in Washington the less responsive they tend to be to the people who sent them there. Worse yet, those in Congress now who have been there for such a long time are taking seats in Washington that could go to new faces and a new generation of public servants with fresh ideas. It’s time for change in Washington.
I want to end the thinking that suggests that only a select few Americans can serve in Congress, and that it is a place to go to advance a career rather than a place to serve.
If a political leader is truly a wonderful public servant and wants to continue to serve, it doesn’t hurt our nation to allow that individual to sit out an election cycle, watching from the bench for awhile to regain the people’s perspective, and then seek election without the benefit of incumbency.
That’s why, in addition to other Congressional reforms I have recommended, I support term limits. It is a necessary first step to more fundamental reform in Congress, because we’re not going to reform Congress by sending and keeping career politicians there. Real change will come only from the outside.
As a way to let voters know what I will fight to accomplish in Washington, I am making a series of promises to you of what I will do and what I won’t do as South Dakota’s lone congressman. I call it my Promises to South Dakota.
This promise has to do with our current Leadership in Congress. No government can function well without strong leadership, and one of the key reasons that our Congress isn’t functioning well is that the leadership—in both parties—is awful. Our government lurches from shutdown to shutdown, creating artificial crises, because Congress has mostly abandoned the discipline of enacting appropriations bills to fund government, something that requires compromise.
Major bills that repeal large pieces of the Affordable Care Act and add $1.5 trillion dollars to the national debt are passed without a single hearing, and our leaders have such contempt for each other that they rarely speak.
It’s no wonder that our federal government barely functions! Because of that, little ever gets done, and the American people pay the price for a government that doesn’t work.
So, my first pledge is one I have spoken of since the day I announced my candidacy back in July of last year: that as South Dakota’s lone Congressman, I will not support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House or any other leadership position.
Ms. Pelosi has been the Democratic leader for 15 highly contentious years. She represents a wealthy San Francisco district that couldn’t be more unlike South Dakota.
But the biggest reason I can’t support her is that Congress is in need of major reform and it won’t come from our current leadership. Ms. Pelosi, along with Paul Ryan, chooses to preside over the deeply troubling Congressional Dues system which they could together abolish, but which sustains their leadership. As I’ve stated months ago, I won’t vote for anyone who maintains it.
I’ll vote for someone as leader who reflects our interests and can relate to and will be responsive to our needs.
I’ll be sharing more of my promises to South Dakota over the coming weeks.
Congress is dysfunctional. The House of Representatives averages 138 “legislative days” a year – less than one in three days each week. They usually begin on Tuesday and adjourn on Thursday afternoon, and spend less than a third of that time actually drafting bills, attending hearings, or voting; in fact, as much as half that time is spent fundraising, beginning their first week in office.
It is a money-dominated system destined to produce the kind of Congress we now have: members who place their re-election above their duty to America. Instead of campaigning face to face with regular citizens, they are elected in the first place by courting wealthy donors. When you ask a person to give thousands of dollars to your campaign, they want something in return, as Donald Trump repeatedly reminded us. If you play the game, you become owned by your donors, having assured many that you will support their legislation – legislation that all too often protects the wealthy class and works against average Americans.
All this keeps most solid citizens from seeking political office: few willingly subject themselves to the sordid efforts to raise such money. But we implicitly agree to this process when we keep electing them anyway: although Congress has an approval rating around 15%, incumbents have a re-election rate of over 90%.
I reject that kind of campaign. I have committed to running a different kind of race. I’ve spent the past 7 months conducting town halls, and meeting South Dakotans in cafes, homes and places of business. I listen to their concerns, and answer their questions about what I believe and want to accomplish as our next congressman.
I’ve spoken and written repeatedly of the damage wrought by corporate and special interest control of Congress. The recent tax law perfectly demonstrates the power of those forces. In the aftermath of an election that was supposed to “drain the swamp,” this tax law is a gift that will keep on giving for years to come, to the rich and politically connected.
If power is to be restored to the people of this nation, this must change; but change requires leaders of conviction who will risk defeat to bring it about.
So, I have decided I will not take money from any PAC whatsoever. I have put some of my own money into the campaign and I am relying on regular South Dakotans who will support a candidate who won’t be owned by anyone, and every day will do the business of the people. I solemnly promise that I will not bow to the big money that controls Washington. If I had to raise money that way in order to win, I’d rather stay home because I wouldn’t be any more effective for the people than those we now send.
For these reasons I will fight for these fundamental reforms:
1. Enacting a Congressional Term Limits Amendment;
2. Ending the deeply troubling Congressional Dues System, in which members pay dues to their parties to serve on committees of their choice;
3. Prohibiting members from raising money while Congress is in session;
4. Requiring Congress to live by the same insurance coverage as the average American, eliminating low cost Capitol Hill medical services that the rest of America lacks; and
5. Prohibiting a member of Congress from employment in firms that employ lobbyists for five years after leaving office.
Dusty has declined to tell the voters whether they intend to participate in the congressional dues system if they are elected. Neither has rejected it, nor have they signed the term limit pledge that I signed months ago. I invite them to share with us their stances on that and each reform issue I have set out.
South Dakota can send a ripple across America by electing a person who refuses to participate in the big money campaign process. That is the way to restore government of, by, and for the People. If we continue to venerate and elect the candidate who raises the largest war chest, let’s stop decrying big money in politics.
Washington is broken. We wonder why, when we send decent people to Washington, nothing ever gets fixed, why our national debt keeps growing no matter which party is in the majority and why well-off people get lavish tax breaks and pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than a waitress, or a farmer, or a small business owner.
I believe the biggest problem is that Congress has fallen under the control of politicians beholden to the ultra-wealthy, large corporations and other special interests. Here’s one way it happens: we send people to Washington who promise to drain the swamp, but they soon find that it’s more like a comfortable hot tub.
During orientation for new House members, their party leaders see to it that they are pampered, wined and dined, but soon those party leaders explain a practice most of us know nothing about. Today, both parties’ leaders levy dues based on the congressman’s committee choice: the more lucrative the committee for fundraising, the higher the dues.
Yes, astoundingly, our representatives are expected to pay to do the work we elected them to do. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., likens the practice to extortion: “They told us right off the bat as soon as we [got] here, ‘These committees all have prices and don’t pick an expensive one if you can’t make the payments.’”
We aren’t talking about token sums. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., explained in his recent book, “Drain the Swamp,” that to serve on a mid-level congressional committee, a first-term Republican congressman is expected to pay $220,000 in dues to the Republican National Congressional Committee – a second-termer – $450,000. The higher that one rises in party leadership, the higher the dues: a top Republican committee chair is expected to pay $1.2 million, higher-up party leaders from $2.5 million to $10 million, and the Speaker, a whopping $20 million, which was no problem for Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who, according to Buck, raised $50 million.
Who provides them these extraordinary amounts? Wealthy corporate and special interest donors, introduced to the new members by leadership. These donors are more than happy to give big contributions in exchange for the control they wield. This is how party leaders use our congressmen as conduits to funnel enormous sums of money to the parties against the people’s interests.
If you don’t pay your dues, you’ve got a big problem. The leadership can get nasty. Democratic leaders have maintained a wall of shame listing those who owe dues; they have also sent collection letters and even made phone calls to “delinquent” House members.
It gets worse. Leadership promises to route dues back into key races the incumbents are at risk of losing, but if the congressman opposes the party’s leadership on a key issue – say, the recent health care bill – the party may not just withhold campaign money in the next election; they may use the war chest to fund a primary challenger.
It takes a strong person to withstand such pressure, and many don’t.
I am convinced this system is not only morally corrupt, but that it also polarizes and serves the large corporate and special interests.
The only way to change a corrupt system is to fight against it.
I am willing to stand – alone if necessary – to oppose it. But I don’t believe I will be alone. There are others in both parties who bitterly oppose this system and hate how it shackles many from doing what is right. They need help to end it.
That’s why I call on the other House candidates in South Dakota and House candidates across America to state on the record that, if elected, they will refuse to support the dues system and will vote against any party leader who does not repudiate it. And to every voter in both parties: if you really want meaningful change in Washington, vote against any candidate who declines to publicly reject the dues system.
Ending this practice won’t eliminate corporate influence in Washington, but it’s an important step. This is about a simple question: whose interests are being served in Washington? How we choose to answer it will determine the kind of America we leave for our children and grandchildren.
Published in the Argus Leader: http://www.argusleader.com/story/opinion/voices/2017/08/30/voice-corporate-money-controls-congress/105122298/
Congress has an approval rating that hovers around 9%, but here’s the problem: Incumbents have re-election rates of around 90%. This suggests we have a hard time firing people who we think are doing a lousy job for us. A major reason for this is that corporate and special interests and other big donors party interests supply those they control with massive amounts of money to keep them in office. One key way to combat this is to enact a term limits amendment.
Today we have members of Congress from both parties who have served for 30, 40, and even 50 years there. I don’t believe this is what the founding fathers had in mind. Instead, the Constitution’s framers envisioned public servants who would “lay down their plows for a season of service” and then return to their communities to again live as one of the governed.
The reality of human nature is that the longer people spend time in Washington the less responsive they tend to be to the people who sent them there. Worse yet, those in Congress now who have been there for such a long time are taking seats in Washington that could go to new faces and a younger generation of public servants with new ideas. It’s time for change in Washington.
That’s why, in addition to other Congressional reforms I have recommended, I support a constitutional amendment that establishes congressional term limits, to include years of service prior to the amendment’s enactment. This amendment would, if adopted, bring about a massive, immediate change in Congress.
I want to end the thinking that suggests that only a select few Americans can serve in Congress, and that it is a place to go to advance a career rather than to serve. Such a change will open Congress to more youthful Americans and people from outside the political arena who are willing to serve for a time and then return to their communities.
If a politician is truly a great public servant and wants to continue to serve, it doesn’t hurt our nation to allow that individual sit out a few years, watching from the bench, for awhile to regain the people’s perspective, and then seeking re-election without the benefit of incumbency.