(Washington, DC) – In the coming days, the United States Senate will debate a bill – on a bipartisan basis – and both Democrats and Republicans will be allowed to introduce amendments. This seems like a novel way to govern.
Except that this is how the Senate is supposed to work.
After years of accusations, acrimony, gridlock, and outright nastiness, it looks like the chamber’s 50 Senators may once again start earning their $174,000/year pay.
While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have been at each other’s throats for about as long as anyone can remember, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have become the newest iteration of The Odd Couple.
“Can two members of the Senate from opposite parties manage to find a way to govern, without driving each other – and the rest of the Senate – crazy?” quipped a Senate aid, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The two friends have cobbled together an “experiment” in which members of the Senate can debate, amend, and pass bipartisan legislation. The problem is, while sounding good on paper, the “experiment” has now been running for 225 years.
“This is the way governing was supposed to happen,” said a political scientist, speaking on condition of anonymity. “This is how the Founding Fathers saw the Senate’s duty. But thanks to radical elements in both the Democratic and Republican parties, we’ve witnessed open warfare the likes not seen perhaps since the Civil War.
“Schumer and Alexander think they’ve come up with a new way to govern. In fact, they’ve ‘rediscovered’ the governing rules and methods set down more than two centuries ago. I don’t call that ‘novel’ as much as plagiarism, quite frankly.”
And while it sounds like a collaboration between two of the newest residents on Capitol Hill, one must keep in mind the histories of both men.
Alexander has represented Tennessee for over 11 years, serving in the Senate since 2003. If he chooses, he can run in November for a third six-year term.
Schumer’s claim that he’s “only been here [in the Senate] 14 years” is even more disingenuous. Before starting his time in the Senate in 1999, he served in the House of Representatives from 1981-1998. In short, Schumer is a career politician with over 30 years in Congress.
Put simply, the “experiment” has been devised by two multi-millionaires who, in lieu of retiring and allowing others to lead, are instead patting each other on the back by proposing to actually do the jobs they were elected to do.
Schumer and Alexander aren’t the only ones who believe in “Congressional Entitlement” – the concept that allows all members of Congress to serve until they choose to retire or die in office. Far from it.
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), another believer in Congressional Entitlement, served in the House from 1977-1986. She has served in the Senate since 1987. For those who are counting, Mikulski has totaled 37 years in Congress.
Pointing out that 45 of the 100 current Senators are serving their first term, she recently noted most don’t know what “regular” in the Senate is.
“Due to irony impairment, Mikulski can’t see that the destruction of ‘regular’ is largely due to the members who insist on hanging on until they retire or die,” said a Congressional expert, speaking on condition of anonymity. “People like Mikulski and Schumer and Alexander want to stay in Congress forever and run the place like it’s 1984 – or even 1974. And, unfortunately for them, it’s 2014.”
The Congressional expert urges average, ordinary, everyday Americans to hold out hope. “The dinosaurs had their time on Earth. Now they’re extinct. So too will be those in Congress who outlive the era in which they were elected – and the constituents who put them there.”