With copies to Senator Martha McSally, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Congressman Paul Gosar, and Congressman Raul Grijalva.
I’m a pastor, not a politician.
I usually focus on theological, moral, church leadership, religious, and family issues, rather than political issues. But I love my country and I take a deep interest in our history and our future. And since the United States Constitution gives me the right to write and speak openly, I am publishing this open letter to Congress as a whole.
Since I mentioned the constitution, let me start by reminding our senators and congressmen of your place in our constitution. The legislative branch of the United States is described in “Article 1.” A description of your work follows immediately after the short preamble (“We the people . . .) that we love so deeply. Your job is described before the work of either our executive or judicial branches. That prime constitutional position means that your work is highly important and highly necessary.
So my message to you is short, simple and straightforward.
Do your job. Our nation is in immediate need of strong legislation to deal with the issues we face. And as you do your job, I will do my job and lead my church to do the same. Biblically and morally, our job is pray for you, to respect you, and to work with you as we can.
I can see how it might be more fun to hold hearings in front of the cameras, especially if it leads to the embarrassment of the other party. I can also see how it might be exciting to conduct investigations in the hope that it will help your party in the next election. I know that it is controversial (and therefore attention-getting) to subpoena cabinet members and call for documents.
I know that those things are part of your job, but they are secondary. Your primary job is to legislate. It’s your job to propose, debate, modify, and then pass bills that are needed. I am well aware that the President can veto the bills you pass and send them back to you. That’s his job. However, fear of a veto shouldn’t stop you from doing your job. America has some issues that cannot be solved by either the President or the courts.
Currently Democrats complain that President Trump has made too many executive decisions. Republicans voiced the same complaint about President Obama. And, of course, some of these actions have been modified, delayed, or nullified by the courts. But I won’t criticize either the Presidents or the courts too harshly, for some of their actions were necessary because of the inaction of Congress to address the issue.
It’s your job to legislate. We have many issues that are crying out for responsible legislation. Here are a few of them:
- We need a responsible budget. Our national debt is more than our entire national gross domestic product. (This hasn’t occurred since the end of World War 2.) Kicking the can down the road a few months at a time is highly irresponsible. We need a reasonable budget that will give us the government we need and still reduce our debt. It won’t be easy to do but it’s your job.
- We need a solution to Social Security. It is unsustainable in its current form. The longer changes are put off, the more drastic (in the form of higher taxes or reduced benefits) the solutions will have to be. I know that any proposed fix will anger some people, but it’s your job to fix it—soon.
- We need an immigration solution. I know that this is a highly contentious issue, but we need immediate solutions. We can argue all day about whether we face “an emergency,” a “crisis,” or a “problem.” No matter what you call it, nearly all Americans agree that our immigration policy needs your attention. The current flood of asylum seekers is crying out for your attention. And while you’re at it, we also need a long-term fix for a weak border, overwhelmed ports of entry, a solution to the ease of bringing in drugs and weapons, and an answer to “Dreamers.” Of course, any laws you propose will be heavily criticized for our country is divided on what is best, but it’s your job to deal with the hard issues and then defend your legislation.
- We need improved infrastructure. National roads are in bad shape. Bridges are collapsing. National Parks are in disrepair. Airports and ports are overcrowded. And fixing all of this will cost money that is hard to come by. There is not an easy solution to fixing our infrastructure, but it’s your job to find a way to do the hard jobs.
- We need improved healthcare and insurance. We have incredible doctors and technology in America, but the costs are quickly getting out-of-hand for most of us. Again, this is a highly challenging issue, but we’ve elected you to deal with the tough issues.
- We need an answer on climate and the environment. Like every other issue I’ve mentioned, there is much disagreement on the problem and the solution, but we need a legislative branch that will look for long-term solutions. At the very least, most Americans see the need for clean air, cost-affordable clean energy, reduced CO2 emissions, and cooperation with other nations. It’s your job to do something about it.
You get my point. I could bring up dozens—even hundreds—of issues to work on. But from my far-from-Washington-point-of-view, most of you seem to be more focused on investigations, hearings, and running for re-election than you are on legislation.
I understand the need for some of these secondary issues. But I’ve always told my children in school that the extra-curricular activities and after-hour items are fun, but don’t forget your real job. If you’re a student, your real job is to go to class and learn. If you’re in Congress, your real job is to legislate.
So please do your job.
I do want you to know that the church will do our job. We will pray for you. And, of course, because we won’t always agree with you, we will voice our opinions, but we will do so respectfully. But we will challenge you to do your job and work on the issues that are crying out for solutions.
In a divided Congress, that means that you can’t continue just to vote with your party on every issue. Congress is simply too divided for that model to work. And since you will need to work across the aisle, you should probably avoid the frequent verbal potshots many of you seem to enjoy. You may need to offend your own political base in order to compromise and actually pass meaningful legislation. And you might even have to be willing to sacrifice your political future in order to get things done.
Proposing, debating, and passing meaningful legislation is your job.
It’s time you did it.