The Lowly Senate
Tue May 12, 2009 10:35 am

As I go about interviewing members of the Capitol community for the Best and Worst Legislators story, I have been surprised by the low regard for the Senate. I know no one is going to feel sorry for lobbyists, but ... a recurring theme among this cursed crowd is that senators are increasingly inaccessible and staff members (undoubtedly acting on the boss's orders) are unavailable as well. I'm not going to speak up for lobbyists, but I will speak up for lobbying. The framers of the U.S. Constitution thought it was important enough to include "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances," in the First Amendment, along with freedom of speech, the press, and religion. For better or for worse (and I would argue it is generally for better), they are part of the process. Other frequently heard criticisms have been the Dew's absence -- Eltife is presiding most of the time, raising the question of whether it is better for Dewhurst to be present, or AWOL -- and his general lack of leadership. The consensus is that the Senate is loaded with members who have stayed way too long and contribute way too little. The most trenchant observation of this session has been that the Senate has become like the House, and the House has become like the Senate. This is not a good epigram for the Senate.

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