(Editor’s note: To view the article click on “Congress Has Become a Toxic Mess. Can It Be Saved?” )
“Congress Has Become a Toxic Mess. Can It Be Saved?” was the subject of Carl Hulse’s “On Washington” column recently in the New York Times. Hopefully, every Member of Congress has read it as they await the release of a report commissioned by the Association of Former Members of Congress. Since I spent several years working in and with the Congress, I read the column with interest.
Thinking back, I believe it was the establishment of the electronic voting system in 1970’s that started this “toxic mess.” Before electronic voting roll calls took up to 45 minutes. Previously while waiting for their name to be called Members visited with each other and built relationships. Relationships were how things got done in that days. With the new system Members entered the Chamber pushed their voting card into the machine…and off they go.
Now when a new Member of Congress is elected they only get to know those in their class or colleagues on the committees to which they are assigned. It takes more relationships than that to accomplish anything in that body.
Today due to the pandemic the House leadership has pushed thru voting by proxy. This further contributes to the lack of relationships.
Let’s hope the Association of Former Members of Congress have some strong recommendations that will be taken seriously when the 117th session of Congress convenes January 3, 2021.