Li: Bring Prime Minister’s Questions to America

Grant Li, Columnist

Every Wednesday, a bunch of well-dressed people crowd into a room at midday. They often stand up and immediately sit back down. There is a raucous air — people shout, and there’s plenty of gesticulating to go along with it.

The House of Commons is in lively session, in a British parliamentary tradition called the Prime Minister’s Questions. The Prime Minister fields questions from various Members of Parliament, sometimes lasting longer than an hour.

The questions are unpredictable, so the Prime Minister must prepare for anything. Missteps are broadcast live on television and disseminated on social media. A skilled orator, whose administration is genuinely tackling the issues at hand, can use the Prime Minister’s Questions to great benefit and self-enhancement.

In the United States, eight months have passed since the last White House press briefing. Where normally the executive would answer questions through the press briefings, the President’s Questions would be a great way to restore another channel of access to the presidency for the people. It should be conducted in the House of Representatives, where each Congressperson is likely more connected to their community than a senator. The representatives would be able to ask questions that are local and impact their own district. Each session would be one hour and broadcast on television.

There’s a lot to gain for everyone involved. Aside from the fact that the president can explain policy decisions and generate support, more obscure members of the House can increase their exposure. If a community wants a problem addressed by the president, constituents can contact their representative to encourage them to ask a question about it.

Realistically, the bar for the president to do well is not very high. Every president should be able to answer hard questions because the problems the nation deals with are also hard. Any president informed on current events and passably articulate should fare just fine. Just look across the Atlantic for an example of how it could work.

Sixty minutes of questions should not burden the president’s schedule too much. Whoever is occupying the Oval Office should be able to spare an hour of golfing for the immense potential payoffs of an appearance at the President’s Question.

Grant Li is a Weinberg sophomore. They can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.