Why the Congressional Reform Act Will Never Pass

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The Congressional Reform Act, to many critics of the system, sounds good on paper. The purported legislation would place term limits on members of the ​U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and strip lawmakers of their public pensions.

If it sounds too good to be true, that's because it is.

The Congressional Reform Act is a work of fiction, a sort of angry taxpayer's manifesto that went viral on the Web and continues to be forwarded and forwarded again, with little regard for facts.

That's right. No member of Congress has introduced such a bill - and none would, given the widely circulated email's numerous half-truths and bogus claims.

So if you're wondering when the Congressional Reform Act will pass the House and Senate, here's a little tip: It won't.

The Text of Congressional Reform Act Email

Here is one version of the Congressional Reform Act email:

Subject: Congressional Reform Act of 2011

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971…before computers, before e- mail, before cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land…all because of public pressure.

I'm asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message.

This is one idea that really should be passed around.

Congressional Reform Act of 2011

  1. Term Limits. 12 years only, one of the possible options below.
    A. Two Six-year Senate terms
    B. Six Two-year House terms
    C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms
  2. No Tenure / No Pension.
    A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.
  3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
    All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.
  4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
  5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
  6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
  7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
  8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S.) to receive the message. Maybe it is time.

THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!!!!! If you agree with the above, pass it on. If not, just delete

You are one of my 20+. Please keep it going.

Mistakes in Congressional Reform Act Email

There are numerous errors in the Congressional Reform Act email.

Let's start with the most obvious one - the incorrect assumption that members of Congress don't pay into the Social Security system. They are required to pay social security payroll taxes under federal law.

Also see: Salaries and Benefits of U.S. Congress Members

That wasn't always the case, though. Before 1984 members of Congress did not pay into Social Security. But they also were not eligible to claim Social Security benefits. At the time they participated in what was called the Civil Service Retirement System.

The 1983 amendments to the Social Security Act all members of Congress to participate in Social Security as of Jan. 1, 1984, regardless of when they first entered Congress.

Other Errors in Congressional Reform Act Email

As far as pay raises, cost-of-living adjustments tied to inflation - such as the Congressional Reform Act email suggests - take effect annually unless Congress votes to not accept it. Members of Congress do not vote themselves pay raises, as the email suggests.

There are other problems with the Congressional Reform Act email, including the claim that all Americans buy their own retirement plans. Studies show that most full-time workers actually participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Members of Congress get retirement benefits under the same plans available to other federal employees.

Meantime, members of Congress already are subject to the same laws the rest of us are, despite claims to the contrary by the Congressional Reform Act email.

But let's not quibble over details. The point is: The Congressional Reform Act isn't a real piece of legislation. Even if it were, what are the chances members of Congress would vote to eliminate perks and jeopardize their own job security?

But Why Not Term Limits for Congress?

Despite the totally mythical nature of the Congressional Reform Act, the very real question of term limits for Congress has been debated for years. If the President of the United States is limited to two terms, why should the terms of senators and representatives not be similarly limited?

Proponents argue that term limits would prevent the constant politicking, fundraising, and campaigning for re-election that seems to consume so much of Congress members’ time today, especially in the case of representatives who most run for re-election every two years.

Those who oppose term limits, and there are several, say that in America’s democratic republic, elections themselves act as term limits. And, in fact, members of the House and Senate are required to face their local constituents every two years or every six years and re-apply for their jobs. If the people are unhappy with them, they can literally “toss the rascals out.”

Along those same lines, term limit opponents point out that while the president serves all of the people, members of Congress serve only the residents of their states or local congressional districts. Thus, the interaction between members of Congress and their constituents is far more direct and personal in nature. Term limits, they argue, would arbitrarily negate the power of the voters to retain lawmakers they consider effective in representing them.

Congressional Reform Act of 2017: ‘The TRUMP Rules’

In late 2019, a list of proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution called the Congressional Reform Act of 2017, or “The TRUMP Rules” appeared on multiple social media websites. The posters claimed that President Donald Trump had asked his supporters to share the list within three days.

Similar to the Congressional Reform Act of 2011 hoax, the “TRUMP Rules” list of amendments included reforms to apply to present and past members of Congress. Specifically, the list included the denial of a pension upon leaving office, mandated participation in the Social Security system and private retirement plans, restricted pay raises, the abolition of insider stock trading by members of Congress, and the voiding of all past or present contracts entered into by members of Congress.

As thoroughly debunked by numerous independent factchecking organizations, the purported “TRUMP Rules” reforms referred to nonexistent policies. Members of Congress have paid into the Social Security program since 1984, and have refused to take their automatic pay raises since 2009.

Moreover, under the very real Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, Congress may not exempt itself from the laws it makes, and the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (STOCK Act) bans its members from insider trading.

Claims that President Trump had personally requested constituents to share the list on social media were also found to be false. 

Updated by Robert Longley

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Your Citation
Murse, Tom. "Why the Congressional Reform Act Will Never Pass." ThoughtCo, Nov. 3, 2020, thoughtco.com/congressional-reform-act-will-never-pass-3322269. Murse, Tom. (2020, November 3). Why the Congressional Reform Act Will Never Pass. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/congressional-reform-act-will-never-pass-3322269 Murse, Tom. "Why the Congressional Reform Act Will Never Pass." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/congressional-reform-act-will-never-pass-3322269 (accessed March 27, 2023).