BLOOMINGTON — Democratic congressional candidate David Gill ridiculed U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson's proposal to cut congressional sessions, salaries and office allowances in half, and suggested that Johnson already could cut his salary and staff.
"If Tim thinks this is a good policy and will put congressmen closer to the people and not more dependent on lobbyists, he should start with himself," said Gill, who is facing Greene County State's Attorney Matt Goetten in the 13th Congressional District Democratic primary on March 20.
But Johnson spokesman Phil Bloomer said "that would be tantamount to unilateral disarmament and wouldn't accomplish anything.
"At least someone's trying to take a stand here and it's Tim Johnson," he said.
Gill said Wednesday that he opposes the legislation because "it's nothing more than the political stunt of desperate career politician who sees the writing on the wall in this new district."
Meanwhile, Johnson officially filed his Citizen Legislator Act (HR 3774) on Tuesday. As of Wednesday afternoon the bill had no cosponsors. The legislation was referred to the Committee on House Administration as well as the committees on Oversight and Government Reform, Rules, and Ethics.
Bloomer said that assigning the legislation to four different committees was not uncommon.
"We'll try to get it heard by all four committees," he said.
As proposed, HR 3774 would limit Congress' days in session to five per month, or 60 business days per session, while also halving the salary for representatives and senators, and cutting office allowances and committee and leadership budgets. It also would permit congressmen and senators to have jobs outside of Congress.
Gill said "there are far better ways to have citizen legislators. That's a concept I've talked about for a long time and in fact I fancy myself as one in the not too distant future.
"I think truly having term limits, not the fake terms limits that Mr. Johnson demonstrated to us years ago, would be a start as would publicly financed campaigns and taking steps to overcome the impact of Citizens United (the Supreme Court case that has led to the creation of so-called superPACs). Those are ways of having ordinary citizens become involved as legislators."
Gill said he would support a constitutional amendment to undo the Citizens United decision.
"You're going to need a constitutional amendment because otherwise John Roberts, Samuel Alito and those people (on the Supreme Court) have made clear that whatever logical steps you take to stop the corporate dominance of government, that they will rule it unconstitutional," he said. "I think you're going to need to go back to square one and fix the Constitution."
Goetten, meanwhile, said that Johnson "is part of the problem in Washington and it's clear he'll do anything to stay in Congress."
He noted that Johnson broke his promise to abide by term limits.
"Now Congressman Johnson is trying to hide his failed record of supporting job-killing trade agreements ... by introducing bogus reform initiatives so he can get reelected," Goetten said. "That's exactly why Congress is such a mess. We need actual solutions to get people back to work."