Why Is Congress So Dysfunctional?

If you think the U.S. Senate is polarized now, just wait.

Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, the man who trounced six-term Sen. Richard Lugar  in Tuesday's Republican primary for not being conservative enough, has served notice that if he is elected in November things will get even worse.

Mourdock, who had strong backing from the Tea Party and other ultra-conservatives, told Fox News and others that he wants more partisanship, not less, and he believes bipartisanship means Democrats must accept GOP positions. 

 “I have a mindset that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view," he said

Lugar voted consistently conservative and along party lines on domestic issues but on foreign policy, the leading Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee for many years had a reputation for bipartisan cooperation.  In today's GOP that is apparently an unforgiveable sin. 

That is more evidence why public approval of the Congress is in the dumps and the public puts more trust in used car salesmen than in their lawmakers. 

In an unusual concession speech, Senator Lugar warned about the toll of "unrelenting" partisanship in Congress, taking both parties to task and making a persuasive case. Mourdock, Lugar said, has promised "reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party."

Two of the most respected congressional scholars, Thomas Mann of Brookings and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, have written a scathing indictment of the dysfunctional legislative branch entitled “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.” You can read an enlightening excerpt here.

Fox News analyst Juan Williams writes in The Hill that these writers and the authors of two other books — Robert Draper’s “Do Not Ask What Good We Do,” and Robert Caro's latest installment in his LBJ biography, "The Passage of Power" – come to the same conclusion: "no-holds-barred, right-wing politics is to be blamed…for the dysfunction on Capitol Hill."

And Richard Mourdock has served notice that if he is elected things will get a lot worse.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.