Constitutional Law / Government / Politics

Bi-partisan corruption in Congress, Senate Edition: A look at the numbers (Part 1)

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If you’ve never supported term-limits for Congress, you may want to reconsider.

Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, each one of us has experienced disappointment with our party or the leaders we elected. The frustration is very real when you see that Congress can’t seem to have honest debate on (any) legislation important to the American people. Yet, they have the audacity to try to exempt themselves from Obamacare, which they created and mandated to the rest of us Americans.

We once heard President Obama declare that he would rid Washington politics of special interest groups, claiming that his administration would not be a place for lobby groups to linger. Let’s just say, that campaign promise was quickly undone.

But, the reality is that special interest groups need more than the Oval Office to pass their agendas. This is why special interest groups have teams of lobbyists scouring Capitol Hill.

Relationships are a critical aspect of many things in life. Whether it be politics, professional endeavors, or with family and friends–you name it–relationships matter. People often think lobby groups do the dirty work on Capitol Hill in congressional offices. While that may be true in some cases, it is at political events, dinners and campaign donor gatherings where members of Congress likely receive the most pressure. And the longer one is on Capitol Hill, the more ‘friends’ and ‘acquaintances’ one has to please.

Below is a simple, but important data table which shows that nearly one-third (32) of our senators have served more than two terms in the Senate. One Senate term equals six years.  So, essentially, thirty-two U.S. senators have been in power for more than 12 years. Altogether, if you add up the time served by these 32 senators, they have 699 years of experience on Capitol Hill. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) are the longest serving senators (active) with 38 and 36 years, respectively. There are a total of 6 senators with 30 or more years in office.

Name State Party Years 
Patrick Leahy Vermont D 38
Orrin Hatch Utah R 36
Max Baucus Montana D 35
Thad Cochran Mississippi R 35
Carl Levin Michigan D 34
Charles Grassley Iowa R 32
Tom Harkin Iowa D 28
Mitch McConnell Kentucky R 28
Jay Rockefeller West Virginia D 28
Barbara Mikulski Maryland D 26
Richard Shelby Alabama R 26
John McCain Arizona R 26
Harry Reid Nevada D 26
Dianne Feinstein California D 21
Barbara Boxer California D 20
Patty  Murray Washington D 20
James Inhofe Oklahoma R 19
Ron Wyden Oregon D 17
Pat Roberts Kansas R 16
Richard Durbin Illinois D 16
Tim Johnson South Dakota D 16
Jack Reed Rhode Island D 16
Mary Landrieu Louisiana D 16
Jeff Sessions Alabama R 16
Susan Collins Maine R 16
Michael Enzi Wyoming R 16
Charles Schumer New York D 14
Michael Crapo Idaho R 14
Bill Nelson Florida D 12
Thomas Carper Delaware D 12
Debbie Stabenow Michigan D 12
Maria Cantwell Washington D 12

Also, see this data table.

Party  Senators
Democrats 20 (or 62.5 %)
Republicans 12 (or 37.5%)

This is clearly a bi-partisan issue. Patrick Leahy, Orrin Hatch, Harry Reid, John McCain are just a handful of names often associated with staying in Senate for too long. However, the problem is much bigger than these four men.

When the Founding Fathers designed our constitutional, representative-republic, this is certainly not what they had in mind. Our bicameral legislative structure was not intended for career politicians, but for individuals wanting to serve their country (from all walks of life) in an honest and transparent way.

With K Street lobbyists just around the corner from Capitol Hill, how can we expect 30 year senators to have clean hands? Campaign money is the name of the game, and both sides use it. A conflict of interest, between lobby groups and party agendas, has forced honest and transparent debate to take a back seat.

And now we are suffering the consequences.

**Thanks to Roll Call for their List of Senators & Dates that I used for my data tables.

**Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Bi-partisan corruption in Congress (Senate Edition): A look at the numbers”.

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