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Washington Is Broken

August 2, 2010

THE NEW YORKER ridicules the arcane obstructions of the dysfunctional Senate in “The Political Scene — THE EMPTY CHAMBER: Just how broken is the Senate?” by George Packer: “While senators are in Washington, their days are scheduled in fifteen-minute intervals: staff meetings, interviews, visits from lobbyists and home-state groups, caucus lunches, committee hearings, briefing books, floor votes, fund-raisers. … Tom Daschle … said, ‘When we scheduled votes, the only day where we could be absolutely certain we had all one hundred senators there was Wednesday afternoon.’ Nothing dominates the life of a senator more than raising money. … Daschle sketched a portrait of the contemporary senator who is too busy to think: ‘Sometimes, you’re dialling for dollars, you get the call, you’ve got to get over to vote, you’ve got fifteen minutes. You don’t have a clue what’s on the floor, your staff is whispering in your ears, you’re running onto the floor, then you check with your leader-you double check-but, just to make triple sure, there’s a little sheet of paper on the clerk’s table: The leader recommends an aye vote, or a no vote. So you’ve got all these checks just to make sure you don’t screw up, but even then you screw up sometimes. But, if you’re ever pressed, “Why did you vote that way?” -you just walk out thinking, Oh, my God, I hope nobody asks, because I don’t have a clue.’”

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