So, they’re holding a vote in the Senate about whether to confirm former senator Charles Hagel as the new Secretary of Defense. That’s an important vote, but how should we write about it?
I personally don’t like the idea of “Chuck” Hagel as Secretary of the Department of Defense – but my reason for opposition isn’t the same as that which is motivating Republican senators to vote no on the Hagel nomination. I think that Hagel is an inappropriate choice to lead the military because he was part of the group of D.C. insiders that helped George W. Bush rush the nation into war against Iraq. Hardly anyone in Washington D.C. is discussing that concern, however.
When we finally look at the roll call of the vote on Hagel’s nomination, we’ll see who in the Senate voted yes, who voted no, and who just didn’t show up. What we won’t see is a record of WHY each senator voted the way they did. Vote tallies matter, but understanding the reasons that legislative votes tally the way they do is also important for citizens who care about what their government does.
That’s why my fantasy congressional legislation would be to require that, along every roll call vote in the House and Senate, each member submit be required to a statement explaining why they voted the way they did. The legislation would also require that this explanation, which could be the length of a single sentence or the length of a book, be made easily available both online and physically in the Library of Congress.
Members of Congress seem to have plenty of time to have meetings with lobbyists behind closed doors. They should spend that time explaining their actions to voters instead.