Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson wants to link congressional and presidential pay raises to deficit reduction, though he acknowledged Sunday that the idea would never see the light of day.
At a crowded house party, the New Mexico governor was asked how he would end partisan bickering in Washington and force Congress to return to doing "the people's work."
Richardson said it was unrealistic to think issues such as health care and energy independence could be sorted out in a true bipartisan fashion. But he said he would urge leaders of both parties to spend one year working on three key items, without regard to party: the war in Iraq, Social Security and the deficit.
"I would say to the Republican and Democratic leadership my first week: 'Hey, we're going to try to govern differently. Let's take three issues that need immediate attention and let's get the politics out. Let's make a pledge here that for one year, we try to resolve them, but our Republican National Committee, our DNC chair, we shut 'em up and we try to resolve these three."
On fiscal matters, Richardson has proposed a constitutional amendment to balance the budget and reduce spending. He also floated the idea of tying pay raises to deficit reduction.
"It won't pass but it is something I think deserves attention," he said.
Richardson said he'd put Congress back on track by reducing the influence of lobbyists and instituting public financing for all federal campaigns. Candidates who are able to raise small amounts of money from many donors should be rewarded, he said.
"Maybe reward those candidates that have 1,000 givers at 100 bucks or 50 bucks," he said. "There are just a lot of creative ways we can do this."
Richardson said he would support some limits on lobbyists' contributions but said he disagrees with rival John Edwards, who has proposed banning lobbyists from donating to federal campaigns. Edwards also has urged the other candidates to join him in rejecting such money.
"Senator Edwards challenged us all to give back money from lobbyists," said Richardson, a former congressman and U.S. energy secretary. "I thought to myself, OK, I get contributions from the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters. I get money from senior citizen groups ... I get money from nurses and teachers. That's a lobbyist? In my book, those are good people. So you've got to be careful about the definitions."
Richardson also was endorsed Sunday by George Bruno, a past chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party and a former U.S. ambassador to Belize.