The two of us have been immersed in Washington politics for more than 36 years. We have never seen the culture so sick or the legislative process so dysfunctional. The plea deals of Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, the indictment of Tom Delay and his resignation as House majority leader, and the demise of Representative Randy Cunningham notwithstanding, this is not simply a problem of a rogue lobbyist or a pack of them. Nor is it a matter of a handful of disconnected, corrupt lawmakers taking favors in return for official actions.
The problem starts not with lobbyists but inside Congress. Over the past five years, the rules and norms that govern Congressional deliberation, debate and voting - what legislative aficionados call "the regular order" - have routinely been violated, especially in the House of Representatives, and in ways that mark a dramatic break from custom. (. . .)
We saw similar abuses leading to similar patterns of corruption during the Democrats' majority reign. But they were neither as widespread nor as audacious as those we have seen in the past few years. The arrogance of power that was evident in Democratic lawmakers like Jack Brooks of Texas - the 21-term Democrat who was famed for twisting the rules to get pork for his district - is now evident in a much wider range of members and leaders, who all seem to share the attitude that because they are in charge, no one can hold them accountable.Recommended reading.