‘Tis the season for departing members of Congress to make their final statements about what they’ve learned and what they regret most.
A remarkable number of legislators departed at the end of this session. According to Roll Call, which keeps tabs on the 535 members of the Senate and House for the two-year term that ends this month, a whopping 221 legislators retired, resigned, were defeated or changed jobs. Two died.
Among those who are leaving, willingly or unwillingly, the unfailing theme is sadness over the loss of civility and courtliness in Congress. Because of the demands of travel and fundraising, House and Senate members arrive in Washington on Tuesdays and leave on Thursdays. That means very few of them socialize on weekends or even know their colleagues’ families, hobbies, backgrounds and interests.
Ironically, candidates and their backers spent more than $3 billion trying to win House and Senate seats this year. The exact amount won’t be available until all the bookkeeping is done. But we already know one Senate race in Massachusetts cost at least $85 million. The Senate race in Virginia cost $81 million.
This is a lose-lose situation. The more money that is spent, the more that is required and the more time legislators spend raising money instead of enjoying their jobs.
We think there should be a House and Senate requirement that members attend a mandatory monthly barbecue or picnic or potluck. Spending face time with co-workers works for most of the rest of us. Why not Congress?