Dick Gephardt Talks About Fixing Congress

Dick Gephardt Talks About Fixing Congress

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Christian Holm
October 22, 2014

Former U.S. congressmen Richard Gephardt (D-MO) knows a bit about bipartisanship, having led Congress in an era of relative peace in the early 1990s despite their difference in political party. He encouraged The Washington Center’s fall 2014 interns to help them rekindle the spirit of compromise in an Oct. 20 Simpson-Mineta Leaders Series discussion.


Bob Cusak, editor-in-chief of The Hill, a newspaper covering congressional and national politics, moderated the discussion. At one point, he asked Gephardt how Congress had changed over the several decades they assumed office and why the governing body has become historically unpopular.


“Congress is a huge organization that handles controversial and emotional issues. I like to say that politics is a substitute for violence,” he said.


Several students asked questions about the former congressmen’s stances on a number of issues, including campaign finance reform, term limits and what it will take to fix a broken Congress.


Alexis Waksmunski (Institution: Juniata College, Pa.; Internship: Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) What is your opinion on Senate Resolution 19, which would amend the Constitution to authorize Congress and the states to set campaign finance limits?


Gephardt: It’s not wrong to discuss reform, but it is very hard to change something in the Constitution. I actually think that a lot of PAC money coming from the far left and the far right spent on elections is a waste. Americans are smart and they know how to sift through politically charged messaging.


André Gonçalves (Institution: Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil; Internship: WorkAmerica) Do you think it is time to develop a way for Americans to be more directly engaged in democracy?


Gephardt: Representative democracy is the best system, although I do think we could do more to improve people’s ability to vote. We are very close to having people vote online and express their views more directly with their representatives. If you can bank online, you should be able to vote online.


Dakota Foster (Institution: Texas Christian University; Internship: Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX) Would establishing [congressional] term limits improve the health of our democracy?


Gephardt: I’m for term limits, and we have them. It’s two years. I think term limits take away a lot of power from the people. It’s undemocratic.


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