Where to begin with some of these comments... I'm sure this will be too long for most and blown by because it doesn't fit in a tweet, but here's my $0.02.
Let's start with Congressional pay.
Member pay is as follows:
Rank and file Members of the House and Senate make $174,000/year.
House and Senate Majority and Minority Leaders: $193,400/year
Unlike with state legislatures, Members of Congress are forbidden from holding other jobs. So this is it. While there are several members that are independently wealthy, the reality is, if you don't just want the rich to be the only ones to be able to afford a life of public service in Congress then we really need to have a real conversation about raising their salaries.
As some up thread have mentioned, DC is not a cheap place to live, and trying to maintain a residence both in DC and in your home state/district is extremely tough and in some cases ensures that you have to come from a 2 income family to even do. DC's median rent is $1550 for a 2 bedroom apartment with the national average is $1180. Let me tell you to live anywhere near Capitol Hill rent is pretty much double that. To buy it is even more expensive. DC's median home price is $600,000. Again on Capitol Hill (or anywhere within a decent commute is much closer to $1m and above).
Again, our nation has always tried to be one where our systems were set up for the average American to be able to run for and hold office in our government. Keeping pay low ensures that only the rich and privileged will be able to afford to be a MoC. Additionally, low salaries does increase the likelihood that someone could be vulnerable for blackmail or illegal ventures-- it's also why Congress requires on it's own disclosures to not just list your assets, but also your debts.
Lastly, there were some comments about Members being absent for a lot of votes. Actually, missed vote percentages were very low for last Congress. In the House, the person who missed the most votes was Rep. Cummings (D-MD) at 33.2%. I suspect a lot of that missed time was when he was hospitalized with some major heart issues. However, most House members missed less than 10% of the votes. LINK
In the Senate, Senator Menendez (D-NJ) missed 14% of the votes-- mostly due to his trial and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in second at 12.9% who was out for several weeks on maternity leave. After that, most Senators were well under 5% of the votes missed. LINK
While I agree that Members should try not to miss any votes at all. I don't think these percentages are as high as some in the thread imply they are.
Moving Congressmen and Senators away from DC and allow for purely online/electronic voting.
While I'm all for telecommuting where it makes sense, it does not make sense for Congress. We are now being exposed to cybersecurity issues with voting machines in our state-run elections. I can't imagine the cost of having to set up a secure system with which to set up electronic voting for Members of Congress. Time zones also pose a challenge. The US and it's territories cover 11 time zones in total. Can you imagine everyone at their various homes trying to cope with doing business during a set time zone while not actually residing in that zone during the work hours. This would make work/home life for a lot of members almost impossible because even though they are at home, they would be unable to visit with constituents-- unless they don't actually want to sleep. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
I've been around DC for a long-time and one of the frustrations is the lack of bipartisanship. Frankly, it's very hard to get more compromises and moving issues forward without the lawmakers having relationships with each other. Splitting up everyone all over the country would make it almost impossible for those relationships to form and common ground to be found. Having meetings with those in the Executive Branch would also be impossible. Forming relationships at the White House would be impossible. All of this is necessary to understand the issues in detail facing our government and working out ways to solve them. In the social media world today, a lot of this seems very simple, but the biggest thing I hear from freshmen members is how much they realized they don't know until they arrive in DC.
Relationships is a big part of getting this right, and it is hard to form relationships built on trust through a phone call/skype or email. We are still social creatures and in-person interaction usually helps form the bonds necessary to do the business of your consituents.
The first amendment allows for everyone to assemble and to petition their government. Doing this in groups is certainly not prohibited and our system encourages it. There is a misnomer out there that every lobbyist is out there peddling policies that go against those of the average American. This is simply not true. As a lobbyist, most of my clients are local governmental entities who are acting as extensions of their constituents and the same constituents of the MoCs themselves. In addition, there are lots of lobbyists who work on behalf of groups of concerned citizens. The idea that every lobbyist is working for big oil, big pharma, alcohol, tobacco, or whatever "evil" special interest is pretty far from the truth. Eliminating lobbyists in their entirety would be in direct violation of the first amendment and would be swiftly challenged in Court.
Over the past 15 years, lobbying disclosure rules have really tightened. Reforms that were necessary in response to Jack Abramhoff. Lobbying is defined in code, and anyone who spends 20% or more of their time lobbying as defined by law must register. Registered lobbyists must then disclose their clients, issues lobbied on behalf of that client and how much money per quarter (anything above $5K/quarter has to be disclosed, otherwise only the activities themselves are subject to disclosure). Registered lobbyists are also required to disclose all political donations made-- how much and to whom (candidates, PACs).
Search the lobby disclosure database here.
Search the lobbying contributions database here
Be careful what you wish for in terms of trying to eliminate the appearance of direct lobbying. What I'm witnessing is that with the move to try to brand all lobbyists as bad or putting bans on anyone registered from moving back into the government for service is that you end up with what I call underground lobbying. These people are also well connected individuals, but only play in the world of campaigns for their influence and avoid activities that require them to register. This makes what they do and who they represent hidden from the public-- which is something I am completely against. I have no problems with anyone knowing who my clients are and what issues I am working on their behalf and I don't know of any other registered lobbyists who are against having to disclose what they do for whom and for how much. Those that work underground in the darkness are growing as some MoCs, particularly freshmen (of both parties) talk a big game about trying to steer away from lobbyists. Instead, they will interact with these other types of folks in the dark out of the eye of the public. It's not healthy for our democracy.
I would also highlight that almost every citizen is employed or a member of a group that hires a lobbyist in some fashion. Your company, your professional membership association or society, all the way down to AAA hire lobbyists-- both internally to the organization and external to the organization.
Again, I know my thoughts here won't change many minds. But I hope it's at least given you another perspective to consider.