This has been a great week in the media highlighting some of the important work the Congressional Institute does. Roll Call produced a great video on the Congressional Art Competition. Real Clear Policy published an opinion piece from Institute President Mark Strand discussing how a few simple changes to the congressional budget process could result in meaningful reforms.
Now CQ Magazine has published an interview with Strand in which he discussed the breakdown in bipartisanship and also the role of the media in today’s political environment. Strand worked on Capitol Hill for more than 20 years in just about every office position. He served as chief of staff to Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO). Here’s what CQ wrote about what he has seen over the years:
One of the greatest problems Strand sees in Congress today is the lack of relationships between staffers — Republicans with Democrats, and even within parties — and that’s a sea change from when he was working on the Hill.
“There’s so much happening. It’s all happening in 15-minute increments, and the ability to develop relationships, sometimes even with your own party, is diminished,” Strand says.
Politics, he adds, is “all based on relationships — and democracy, especially, is based on relationships of people working together and compromising. When you have a constant refusal to compromise, why start the conversation?”
Recent history is rife with stories of President Ronald Reagan making deals with U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill and other Democrats over cocktails. But in today’s hyper-partisan world, any sign of reaching out to lawmakers on the other side of the aisle is met with threats of primary challenges and statements of betrayal from Super PACs flush with cash.
The media bears some responsibility for this breakdown, Strand said. From the article:
It’s not just members and staff where Strand sees a culture evolving in the wrong direction. He believes the increasing competitiveness and volume of media outlets on Capitol Hill has also created a situation where many reporters don’t look at the longer-term. …
Reporters can do better, too, he says, by giving attention to efforts to build comity, and not just partisan feuds. Strand points to the new Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform as an example of potentially fruitful work that’s gotten little coverage in mainstream press.
“It’s one of the most important things they’re doing because if the budget process doesn’t work, nothing works,” he says. “If no one reports it, there’s no pressure to produce legislation that does something positive.”
Click here to read the full article.