Gallagher plans bills to get Congress to work

Canceling recesses, curbing fundraising among the goals
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U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, northeast Wisconsin’s representative in Congress, didn’t want to be on recess this month, and he even crafted a bill to try and keep the House in Washington for August.

He wasn’t successful, but he’s still moving forward with legislation that would keep him and his colleagues focused on the people’s business and not on efforts to remain in office. Between a visit to the Sun Drop Museum in Shawano and a meet-and-greet with the Shawano County Republican Party, Gallagher sat down with The Shawano Leader on Monday to talk about how he’s taking steps to drain the swamp.

“The status quo in D.C. — the swamp — is very powerful, so it’s going to require us to convince our colleagues,” Gallagher said. “I’m hopeful, though, because the next generation on both sides is committed to reforms.”

One of the bills Gallagher introduced was an effort to cancel the House’s August recess to allow members to work on major policy issues. His bill would only allow Congress to adjourn for up to three days at a time if important legislation had not been resolved.

“I think that if we stay there, and we work our tails off, the results would speak for themselves,” Gallagher said. “The people back home would appreciate that.”

In comparison, Gallagher pointed out that most regular employees would not be allowed to take vacations if they hadn’t done any work. So he said he sees no reason why he and his colleagues shouldn’t be held to the same standard.

Gallagher noted that the Senate is partially to blame, as the House has almost 500 bills passed that are still awaiting the other chamber’s approval. However, the major issues like a federal budget and immigration reform are left on the back burner until the last minute.

“The more we delay, and the more we go home without those unresolved, we’re just setting up a situation where we’re going to be scrambling at the last second in a heated political environment to get some stuff done,” Gallagher said. “That’s just a bad process. It increases the likelihood that we have a massive omnibus bill that nobody reads or an ongoing resolution that really hurts the military, or a government shutdown.”

Gallagher is still working on his Go to Washington, Go to Work Act, which would forbid members of Congress from fundraising anytime it is in session. Co-sponsored by Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan, of Minnesota, Gallagher noted that recesses like the current one would allow those who are running for re-election time to raise money for their campaigns, but when Congress is in session, members should be focused on their jobs.

“It’s exciting that it’s bipartisan,” Gallagher said. “Starting off with a Democrat and a Republican is always good, particularly on an issue like this. I think people in both parties recognize that the demands of fundraising and the fact that people spend so much of their time raising money rather than working and doing their job is a huge problem — especially in the House, where we’re running (for election) every two years.”

Gallagher said there are some people who get rich off the perpetual, never-ending election cycle, particularly political action committees and the super-sized versions of said committees.

“You have all this money flying around, and that’s not the way it should be,” Gallagher said. “This is a small step, but an important one.”

The Go to Washington, Go to Work Act was introduced in Congress last month, but Gallagher is hopeful that it will come up for a vote in the fall. He said it might be a long shot that it would pass before the general election in November, noting that Congress has another recess in October. Even when it resumes in September, budget issues and a potential government shutdown will likely take priority.

“We’ve got between nine and 12 legislative days between here and November,” Gallagher said. “That’s absurd. Who in Wisconsin would get to work nine days in the course of three months?”

It’s not in the bill, but Gallagher said he would prefer to see a shift in scheduling that would keep legislators in Washington two to three weeks straight, working six days a week, rather than the current four-day schedule that has representatives “rushing to leave on Thursday” to return to their home states. He thinks doing that and having a full week off would allow more quality time with constituents.

Despite the appearance that nothing’s getting done, Gallagher noted that he was one of the few freshman representatives to get a standalone bill passed and signed into law by President Donald Trump. That bill was the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Bill, something Gallagher called a “small” piece of legislation that’s expected to become more significant over time.

The bill established a memorial for veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He noted that, unlike World War II, the current wars don’t have a clear end date, and so action needed to be taken now so that, when these veterans get older, they’ll be able to participate in Honor Flights and receive other things that the country’s elder veterans currently receive.

Gallagher said it took a lot of work to get the bill passed, but it’s one he’s proud of.

“It’s hard work, more than anything else, that allows you to get stuff done,” Gallagher said. “If you want to legislate, if you want to do real things, that requires you to spend a lot of time on it, and it’s not glamorous.”