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Old 13th January 2021, 08:35 PM   #1
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Is it stupid to let members of congress skip out on their job?

At present, members of congress are often absent from congress during congressional proceedings, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they have other things they'd rather be doing (like engaging in campaign events in order to win votes and/or bring in lots of dollars). Sometimes they want to spend more time with their families or loved ones. Sometimes they're not feeling well and want some time to rest up, or (now that Covid is a problem) feel a need to be in quarantine. And sometimes they'd prefer not to have to cast a vote either way on a controversial matter because whichever way they vote is likely to cost them support and votes come re-election time.

Is it stupid to allow them to do this? Should we instead have some kind of requirement that members of congress have to actually show up for work?

This question came up recently in another thread, where the topic is the upcoming impeachment trial and how many votes are actually needed to convict. It's off-topic there, but it does seem like a topic worth discussing. So as a favor to the person who raised that point I'm starting this thread where he and others interested in the subject can discuss it. I won't have much time at present to take part in this discussion, but I am looking forward to reading what others have to say about it and perhaps taking more part in the discussion.
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Old 14th January 2021, 06:59 AM   #2
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Day in, day out, having the entire body seated at their desks for hours at a time.

What amazing things will suddenly start getting accomplished because of this?

Especially after the first few years of getting grounded in parliamentary procedure, there's little purpose to spending enormous time in chamber.

Now, some take this too far. Others fill that time with dialing for dollars. Yet others, however, focus less on D.C. and run a potent constituent services office back in their home district/state.
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Old 14th January 2021, 07:06 AM   #3
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Rather than making a rule for everyone, each person in each district gets to evaluate how important it is to that person every two years.
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Old 14th January 2021, 07:15 AM   #4
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I agree with Bob on this one. We already have a perfectly cromulent mechanism in place for enforcing our opinion of whether our representative is doing their job.
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Old 14th January 2021, 07:24 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Nova Land View Post
At present, members of congress are often absent from congress during congressional proceedings, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they have other things they'd rather be doing (like engaging in campaign events in order to win votes and/or bring in lots of dollars). Sometimes they want to spend more time with their families or loved ones. Sometimes they're not feeling well and want some time to rest up, or (now that Covid is a problem) feel a need to be in quarantine. And sometimes they'd prefer not to have to cast a vote either way on a controversial matter because whichever way they vote is likely to cost them support and votes come re-election time.

Is it stupid to allow them to do this? Should we instead have some kind of requirement that members of congress have to actually show up for work?

This question came up recently in another thread, where the topic is the upcoming impeachment trial and how many votes are actually needed to convict. It's off-topic there, but it does seem like a topic worth discussing. So as a favor to the person who raised that point I'm starting this thread where he and others interested in the subject can discuss it. I won't have much time at present to take part in this discussion, but I am looking forward to reading what others have to say about it and perhaps taking more part in the discussion.
Are you aware that every member of congress serves on at least a few committees?

As such, when congress is in session and one sees a number of empty seats, then it is quite likely that the people who occupy those seats are most likely doing work in those committees.

And since it is not possible for them to sit in on committee work and sit in congress at the same time, then they have to be absent from congress.

Furthermore, since regular elections are held, then the members of congress are already subject to periodic review of their congressional duties.
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Old 14th January 2021, 07:32 AM   #6
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My main point was less about Congress People who don't have their "butt in the seat" so to speak, although I'd argue an electorate has every right to upset with someone like Tulsi Gabbard who just straight up doesn't even show to 37.8% of votes in a calendar year, but with Congress People who are there, sitting there on the Congressional Floor, and just straight up go "Nope, I'm not going to vote because I don't feel like it."

Yesterday 4 people didn't vote. They weren't home sick. They weren't at the funeral of a loved one. They were there, in the same chambers as everyone else, and just went "LOL not going to take side in this."
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Old 14th January 2021, 07:35 AM   #7
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Usually most of them do vote for the really important stuff.

OTOH, some "acts of congress" are pure symbolic fluff, aren't they?

List of acts of the 116th United States Congress

Quote:
Public Law 116-10
A bill to designate the outstation of the Department of Veterans Affairs in North Ogden, Utah, as the Major Brent Taylor Vet Center Outstation.
Quote:
Public Law 116-42
To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 770 Ayrault Road in Fairport, New York, as the "Louise and Bob Slaughter Post Office".
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Old 14th January 2021, 07:36 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
Usually most of them do vote for the really important stuff.

OTOH, some "acts of congress" are pure symbolic fluff, aren't they?
Then Congress shouldn't be wasting their time with them.

"It's okay if I pick and choose when to do my job because most of it is time wasting nonsense" would be a fine excuse for jobs that aren't Congress.
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Old 14th January 2021, 07:56 AM   #9
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Who is going to enforce this and who decides the standards and penalties?

Because if the answer is "congress does," then welcome to how things are now.

If the answer is anyone else, consider how this would affect the independence of Congress and separation of powers.
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Old 14th January 2021, 08:07 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Then Congress shouldn't be wasting their time with them.
I'm having a hard time imagining a functional system of government where this formulation makes rational sense. Any system that allows legislators to bring whatever arbitrary bill is needed, must necessarily allow legislators to bring all kinds of arbitrary bills that many would argue are unneeded.

Right now, that argument takes place in the legislature itself. A legislator proposes a bill, finds a sponsor, drums up support, tries to get it through committee and into a floor vote, etc. If he's worried his constituents think it's a bad idea or a waste of time, he'll give it up. If he can't convince enough of his fellow legislators to go along with it, it dies.

If you set up an authority to pre-judge these things, then the argument just takes place at that level instead, and kibitzers will come kibitzing that the Pre-Judge shouldn't be wasting their time with frivolous matters. Who will Pre-Judge the Pre-Judges? Judges?

Either you end up creating a whole new venue of government just to waste the exact same time on the exact same things, or you end up with a system that's so far up its own ass that nothing ever gets done and it's all just a waste of time.
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Old 14th January 2021, 08:28 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
[…] or you end up with a system that's so far up its own ass that nothing ever gets done and it's all just a waste of time.
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Old 14th January 2021, 08:35 AM   #12
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This reminds me of the story of the boss that ordered all staff to be in zoom with cameras on during the whole workday.
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Old 14th January 2021, 08:36 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
Usually most of them do vote for the really important stuff.

OTOH, some "acts of congress" are pure symbolic fluff, aren't they?

List of acts of the 116th United States Congress
Yes, and since the majority party would win, push come to shove, usually votes are rationed out.

"You have fifty show up, we'll round up 55, vote is at 9:00 tomorrow, next item?"

ETA: most votes are a smattering of those who's districts have strong opinions on the matter and junior members filling out the rest, part of that learning procedure period.

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Old 14th January 2021, 08:39 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Suddenly View Post
Who is going to enforce this and who decides the standards and penalties?

Because if the answer is "congress does," then welcome to how things are now.

If the answer is anyone else, consider how this would affect the independence of Congress and separation of powers.
How about, when members of Congress appear on news programs, the network can put up a little stat block that shows attendance rates, vote %, etc? Kinda like athletes.

Then we could set up Fantasy Congress leagues.
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Old 14th January 2021, 08:39 AM   #15
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If, for example, 26 Republican Senators decided they had more important things to do than turn up for Trump's trial, would anybody here make much of a fuss about it?

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Old 14th January 2021, 09:00 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by ZirconBlue View Post
How about, when members of Congress appear on news programs, the network can put up a little stat block that shows attendance rates, vote %, etc? Kinda like athletes.

Then we could set up Fantasy Congress leagues.
Feel free. The information is out there.

There are plenty of problems with congress, but most of them have to do with Republicans being wildly overrepresented and doing what they can to consolidate and protect their power with no regard to the public welfare or objective reality.
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Old 14th January 2021, 09:41 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
(...)
Edited by zooterkin:  <SNIP>
Edited for rule 0 and rule 12.
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Old 14th January 2021, 09:44 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by ZirconBlue View Post
How about, when members of Congress appear on news programs, the network can put up a little stat block that shows attendance rates, vote %, etc? Kinda like athletes.
The network news could do this already, any time they wanted. Either their audience isn't interested, or legislators aren't, or both.
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Old 14th January 2021, 09:45 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I agree with Bob on this one. We already have a perfectly cromulent mechanism in place for enforcing our opinion of whether our representative is doing their job.
It's not the mechanism, it's the performance standard. We expect so little that our expectation bar is ankle high.
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Old 14th January 2021, 10:32 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
The network news could do this already, any time they wanted. Either their audience isn't interested, or legislators aren't, or both.
Their audience isn't interested because most of them have any idea how often their representatives are absent or miss a vote. And legislators don't want them to know. The only time it ever seems to come up is when a Senator is running for President and their opponent wants to make an issue of it. I suspect a lot more people would take notice if the information was regularly presented to them.
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Old 14th January 2021, 11:12 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by ZirconBlue View Post
Their audience isn't interested because most of them have any idea how often their representatives are absent or miss a vote. And legislators don't want them to know. The only time it ever seems to come up is when a Senator is running for President and their opponent wants to make an issue of it. I suspect a lot more people would take notice if the information was regularly presented to them.
Which is increasing the noise, not decreasing it. In context, you might as well be evaluating the neatness of their handwriting or how well they dress.
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Old 14th January 2021, 11:29 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Suddenly View Post
Which is increasing the noise, not decreasing it. In context, you might as well be evaluating the neatness of their handwriting or how well they dress.
You jest, but I will not vote for a man who consistently wears a tie with a shirt that has a button down collar. McCain lost my vote on that issue the first time he ran. It is a sort of folksy way of trying to both meet the necessity of a coat and tie, but be a little more relaxed about it. It looks like a high school student being forced to attend an event. Nope.

Also, desperate combovers are deal breakers, but I wasn't voting for Trump anyway.
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Old 14th January 2021, 11:42 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
You jest, but I will not vote for a man who consistently wears a tie with a shirt that has a button down collar. McCain lost my vote on that issue the first time he ran. It is a sort of folksy way of trying to both meet the necessity of a coat and tie, but be a little more relaxed about it. It looks like a high school student being forced to attend an event. Nope.

Also, desperate combovers are deal breakers, but I wasn't voting for Trump anyway.
Personal choice is a far different thing from wanting data on these things pushed on people as it they should matter.

I mean, if I see someone in a short sleeve dress shirt and tie I immediately assume they are a serial killer. There is a chance they are just an engineer or a music major or something, but why quibble?

I'm not starting a watchlist or anything tho.
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Old 14th January 2021, 11:58 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Suddenly View Post
Personal choice is a far different thing from wanting data on these things pushed on people as it they should matter.

I mean, if I see someone in a short sleeve dress shirt and tie I immediately assume they are a serial killer. There is a chance they are just an engineer or a music major or something, but why quibble?

I'm not starting a watchlist or anything tho.
Your assumptions are valid. I would only add mormon missionary to your list of serial killers who have found a loophole that allows them some cover for their weird fetish.

But back on topic, why not advocate for a graphic that tells you the number of times an elected official has worn a short sleeved shirt with a tie in public? It could be nested right beside my tie with a button-downed collar graphic, seer sucker suit counter, Tabasco tie tally, and whatever these whiners want to know about boating or whatever their petty complaint du jour is.

We need data on issues important and petty. The NFL could help make this work. OK, they may need help from Nickelodeon to avoid that weird robot/player thing, but still, we have the technology.
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Old 14th January 2021, 01:36 PM   #25
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Mod WarningPlease keep to discussing the topic of the thread, rather than one another, which, as ever, is likely to be a breach of rule 12 and/or rule 11.
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