AUGUSTA, Maine -- A national congressional primary date, more young people in public service and five-day workweeks for Congress were among dozens of recommendations released Tuesday by a bipartisan group of leaders including former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe that hopes to eliminate government dysfunction and gridlock.
Snowe, a moderate Republican who left office in 2012 and blamed political polarization and a lack of progress, said that the problem has only grown worse and that Americans fear the current political environment has become the norm.
"The armies of gridlock are well-funded and well-organized. What we need is a counterweight to that extremism," said Snowe, a co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Commission on Political Reform.
She joined former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, and Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, and others in Washington to unveil the group's proposal on reducing gridlock.
The group -- made up of 29 people, including former state and federal officials, business and academic leaders -- also called for more states to hold open or semi-open primaries and to use independent commissions to draw electoral districts to prevent gerrymandering.
A single primary date in June could help boost voter turnout, which Snowe said in an interview is vital to ensure that elected officials represent broader views instead of the extremes.
Several recommendations involved congressional process, such as eliminating some filibusters and using a two-year budget-making process rather than an annual one. The report also lays out a plan for lawmakers to spend more time in Washington with three full workweeks followed by one-week recess when they can return to their districts.
Many of their goals -- like encouraging Americans ages 18 to 28 to choose a year of service, such as the military, public office or volunteering, are by their nature difficult to achieve. And in several circumstances, the group is relying on states to act, which means change would be likely be piecemeal, at best.
The group acknowledged that even if the changes are made, they won't cure all of the problems facing the country overnight.
"But taken together, they have the political potential to transform our nation's politics and civic life," Daschle said, "and the result in our view will be a stronger, more united country that is better equipped to meet all of the challenges of our time."