The legislative branch of the U.S. government has often looked dysfunctional in recent years. A number of Senators and Representatives violated ethics, broke the law or engaged in other corrupt behaviors, and probably will again. Bipartisanship has all but disappeared and moderates find welcome mainly with Democrats. Current needs for new laws are leftover from years of ineptitude and neglect. Congress has some catching up to do.
Self correction is needed. Should we expect any useful corrections to happen? Looking to history, there was a similar situation after President Clinton's second election. Republicans took power and proposed a revolutionary strategy, which eventually included impeachment proceedings against the President. But over time Congress developed a self corrected mechanism, according to an article written later in the 1990s decade by former Representative Lee Hamilton. To quote:
Something similar is happening today. It began with the Republicans’ decision to elect Dennis Hastert Speaker of the House, which signaled their desire to find a less confrontational tack than they had assumed under Newt Gingrich. It continued with the get-together in Hershey, Pennsylvania, a gathering that drew some 200 Members of Congress and their families hoping to get to know one another away from the political pressure cooker. And it’s apparent in the measured, even conciliatory language heard these days from Speaker Hastert and the Democratic leader, Richard Gephardt of Missouri. Constituents are tired of division and blatant partisan calculation, and every time Members of Congress go home, they hear about it. The surprise would be if Members did not pay attention. It is Congress’ own self-correcting mechanism at work.Can we hope for a recurrence anytime soon? How close to the brink of disaster do we have to come in the 2000s decade? One would think that the events of the past year would have been enough to set up a congressional self correction. What is different? One thing this time is that we do not have divided government. Democrats are in control of both Capitol Hill and the White House and the Republicans do not know how to tolerate that reality.One would wish that Congress would embark on the business of self correction today. It is the Saturday set for a vote to begin formal health care reform debate on the floor of the Senate. Republicans will try to delay and obstruct and Democrats will arm-twist each other to get the 60 votes necessary to bring up the blended bill.
. . . I’d like to think that, as Congress gingerly moves beyond impeachment, its Members are beginning once again to discover how much more they can accomplish by working together.
It will be interesting to watch because the outcome this evening and beyond is still so uncertain. Knowing Lee Hamilton, I'll bet there is a small part of him ironically wishing for the good old days when the Democrats were the cooperative minority. Perish the thought!
Today is today and the Democrats must practice self correction within their own ranks, and stop wishfully thinking about the good old days of bipartisanship.
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