Congress Isn't What It Used To Be

Dec 8, 2017

What's wrong with Congress?

"It's become the blame game," says former U.S. Senator John Breaux.

When he joined former congressmen Billy Tauzin and Rodney Alexander at the Council for a Better Louisiana's annual luncheon Thursday, they discussed the differences in D.C., then and now.

Alexander, who served from 2003 to 2013, says the increasing absolutism of partisanship is what made him leave, after a floor leader got on his case for voting with the needs of people in his district.

"You are disappointing people in Washington that can help you. The people at home can't help you in Washington. You need to make up your mind whether you're one of us or one of them," Alexander says he was told.

Tauzin, a congressman from 1980-2005, says many House members now self-insulate from differing views.

"A hundred and fourteen members now sleep in their office in the House — not because it's a comfortable place to sleep, but because they don't bring their families to Washington anymore," Tauzin observes.

Breaux says families used to prevent too much partisanship, as they helped through encouraging socializing with fellow congress members of every affiliation.

"It's very difficult to stab someone in the back if you had dinner with them the night before," he commented.

Breaux served from 1972-1987 in the House, then from 1987-2005, in the Senate. He says the increasing viciousness of election campaigns are a major contributing factor to the partisan dysfunction.

"The first thing people do today in a campaign is go find as much dirt as you possibly can use against your opponent," he says. "With that type of a campaign, once elected,  it makes it harder for them to be able to work across party lines."

Tauzin agrees.

“Many of them just hate each other today. They come from the nastiest campaigns you’ve ever seen—come to Washington not to get along, but to get even.”