Donald Trump in 2013.

Trump Rule: The Congressional Reform Act of 2017 to Fix Congress

In 2017, an old rumor was slightly updated and found new life on social media, as they so often do.

According to the story, President Donald Trump has proposed the “Trump Rule” to fix Congress for good; the “Congressional Reform Act of 2017” was purportedly intended to accomplish that goal:

Congressional Reform Act of 2017

1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman / woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they’re out of office.

2. Congress (past, present, & future) participates in Social Security.
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 3/1/17. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women.

This is not at all true, and never came from Donald Trump. Instead, this rumor borrows heavily from the long-running lore of Warren Buffett’s “Buffett Rule,” and the so-called “Trump Rule” to fix Congress never became part of president’s agenda.

The legend of the “Buffett Rule” dates back to a 2011 CNBC interview, in which the billionaire investor outlined what he described as a quick and simple way to fix Congress for good. Buffet was discussing the “maturity” of Republicans and Democrats to address the 2011 budget standoff:

You just pass a law that says that any time there’s a deficit of more than 3 percent of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election. Yeah. Yeah. Now you’ve got the incentives in the right place, right? So it’s capable of being done. And they’re trying to use the incentive now we’re going to blow your brains out, America, you know, in terms of your — of your — in terms of your debt worthiness over time, and that’s being used as a threat. A more effective threat would be just to say if you guys can’t get it done, we’ll get some other guys to get it down. And incidentally, we had — we had Simpson-Bowles, you know, almost eight or 10 months ago.

The idea has become known as “the Buffet Rule,” and has often been packaged in rumors as “the Congressional Reform Act.” Buffett aides later said that he wasn’t making a serious policy proposal at the time, but Buffett’s “proposal” to pass a law that says sitting members of Congress can’t seek re-election if the federal deficit is more than 3 percent of GDP was attached to the beginning of a chain email about the 2011 Congressional Reform Act that was already in widespread circulation. (Click here for our full investigation of that rumor.)

The message still resonates with voters from across the political spectrum who are deeply dissatisfied with the job Congress has done. In March 2017, a number of online petitions were launched to get President Trump to take up the cause of the Congressional Review Act of 2017, which borrows heavily from the Congressional Review Act of 2011.

These petitions have been widely circulated via email, and in some instances have been mistaken or misidentified as policy proposals from Trump to reform Congress. However, the president has not made any proposals resembling the so-called Trump Rule, nor has he put forth anything resembling Buffett’s plans.