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Senate Candidate Ben Sasse: Move the Capitol Out of D.C.

Ben Sasse is seeking the GOP nomination for Nebraska’s open Senate seat. He ran a commercial during the weekend’s NFL playoffs, stating that D.C. is “sick and dysfunctional.” His solution? Move the Capitol to Nebraska. Serious or not, the suggestion is something of a halfway measure.

Mr. Sasse, jockeying for the strongly contested primary spot in Nebraska’s Senate race, offered a radical solution to Washington, D.C.’s culture of corruption. His advertisement featured a truck hauling the Capitol building away. According to The Hill, Mr. Sasse spoke, earnestly, in his 30 second ad: “That is it…The way to cure the incredible ineffectiveness and dysfunction of both parties in Washington; we move the capitol to Nebraska and leave the lobbyists and influence peddlers behind.”

Trouble is, even if the locus of government shifted to the Cornhusker state, nothing would prevent “lobbyists and influence peddlers” from flocking there. Although Mr. Sasse does not believe there are sufficient votes in Congress to affect his plan, he offered the proposal as a “thought experiment” in order to emphasize what the Founders might think of today’s federal government and to highlight the frustrations experienced by the nation’s voters. In short, a gimmick.

Mr. Sasse spoke candidly to Breitbart: “DC is a sick, dysfunctional place. I’ve seen it up close. We’re going to lose our country if we don’t act quickly.” Mr. Sasse, formerly with the Bush administration’s HHS, is a professor and is reputed to be an expert on Obamacare, of which he is an outspoken critic. Whoever picks up the seat being vacated by incumbent Senator Mike Johanns is expected to be the front runner for the hotly contested Senate seat. Conservatives candidates continue to battle establishment GOP candidates. Mr. Sasse’s endorsements are somewhat mixed; although he has obtained the backing of some Conservative groups, such as the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservative Fund, he has also gained the support of the politically schizophrenic Paul Ryan. Ryan was also considered an outspoken critic of Obamacare…depending on the day. 

Mr. Sasse portrays himself as a Washington outsider. If so, he should be aware that Washington corruption cannot be purged merely by shifting Congress, lock, stock and barrel, to a new locale. There are better ways. One suggestion is based upon Congress’s actual work schedule. Congress averages between 130 and 180 days in session per year. Many elected officials work even fewer days than that. And when they do show up, they embark upon such critical issues as professional baseball and NFL team names instead of, say, federal budgets. Why not officially make serving in Congress a part-time position instead of a life-long sinecure? Part time representation (implying the necessity for Congress to seek gainful employment elsewhere the rest of the time) works flawlessly in states like Texas.

Another involves revoking the 17th amendment and returning Senate appointments to their state legislatures. That system functioned for almost 150 years. The House of Representatives was supposed to be the only body of the legislative branch elected directly by the people. The Senate, appointed by their states, was supposed to be a counterbalance. Instead we have well-paid, full-time campaigners in both houses of Congress.

Last but not least, Mr. Sasse was on the right track when he suggested moving D.C.’s seat of power. He just didn’t take the idea all the way. Congressmen and Senators should be obligated to live and work in the states they were elected to represent. The technology to keep them down on the farm while providing access to their brethren, when their votes are required, is universal. Imagine how different things might be if elected officials actually had to face their constituents every day instead of being sheltered in their incestuous D.C. enclaves? Nothing could provide a more effective restraint on the puffed up political class than extinguishing the Georgetown party circuit.

Yes, D.C. is irreparably sick and dysfunctional. But if candidates want to be taken seriously, shouldn’t they present legitimate answers to government corruption instead of merely providing a “thought experiment?” Real solutions might presently be unworkable but, offering them to a disgruntled constituency might eventually result in real change someday.

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Marilyn Assenheim

Marilyn Assenheim was born and raised in New York City. She spent a career in healthcare management although she probably should have been a casting director. Or a cowboy. A serious devotee of history and politics, Marilyn currently lives in the NYC metropolitan area.