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Sun Jan 20, 2013, 03:59 AM

Democratic freshman lawmaker: Congress not working enough

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) said Friday that Congress is not working enough.
Speaking on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show,” Nolan, who served before in the House for three terms starting in the 1970s, told host Ed Schultz that lawmakers are working less now than they did the last time he was in Washington.

“Back when I served before, we worked 48 out of 52 weeks. This Congress is going to work, you know, 31, 32 weeks out of 52 weeks,” Nolan said. “We used to work four and five days a week. And we would be in committee in the morning. We would be in session during the afternoon and into the evening. And we got things done.”
Nolan said that time spent together would lead to lawmakers getting to know each other and learning how to better collaborate on legislation. The lawmaker, who beat Republican Chip Cravaack last election to return to Congress, has blamed fundraising in the past for the low legislative workload.

“Money has really corrupted the entire political process. The sad story, Ed, here is that the one with the most money generally gets the most votes,” Nolan said on Friday. “So people have come to the conclusion — and, quite frankly, understandably so, that there`s no sense running unless you're going to have at least enough money, and hopefully more than the other person that you're running against.”

Nolan also said Congress is not governing.
“Congress isn`t governing, in your opinion?” asked Schultz.
“No. You can`t run a business that way. You can’t run a country that way,” Nolan said.


When they are working. the majority of their time seems to be spent fundraising
The amount of time that members of Congress in both parties spend fundraising is widely known to take up an obscene portion of a typical day -- whether it's "call time" spent on the phone with potential donors, or in person at fundraisers in Washington or back home. Seeing it spelled out in black and white, however, can be a jarring experience for a new member, as related by some who attended the November orientation.

Working a schedule like that as a freshman teaches a member of Congress about the institution's priorities. "It really does affect how members of Congress behave if the most important thing they think about is fundraising," Miller said. "You end up being nice to people that probably somebody needs to be questioning skeptically. It's a fairly disturbing suggested schedule. You won't ask tough questions in hearings that might displease potential contributors, won't support amendments that might anger them, will tend to vote the way contributors want you to vote."

Perriello said that the drive for fundraising winds up containing "an enormous anti-populist element, particularly for Dems, who are most likely to be hearing from people who can write at least a $500 check. They may be liberal, quite liberal in fact, but are also more likely to consider the deficit a bigger crisis than the lack of jobs."

The time spent fundraising, he added, also "helps to explain why many from very safe Dem districts who might otherwise be pushing the conversation to the left, or at least willing to be the first to take tough votes, do not – because they get their leadership positions by raising from the same donors noted above."


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