ABC News Exclusive: Retiring Members Talk ‘Dysfunctional’ Partisanship, ‘Strangling’ Special Interest Money and Greatest Disappointments
(WASHINGTON) -- In an ABC News exclusive interview, four retiring representatives sat down with Senior Political Correspondent Jonathan Karl for a candid look back on their time serving in Congress. The two Democrats and two Republicans, all defeated in their bids for re-election, found common ground on the need for bipartisanship, the negative impact of special interest money and their disappointment about what they call "the dysfunction" in Congress.
Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who lost his GOP Gubernatorial primary bid, had some strong last words about the state of Congress as he sees it.
“Congress is more dysfunctional today than when I got here 16 years ago and probably more dysfunctional than any time in the 53 years I’ve been alive,” he told Jonathan Karl.
Wamp added his greatest disappointment has been watching the erosion of the unity formed in the aftermath of 9/11.
Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, who lost to Republican Bill Flores, echoed Wamp’s concern over the increasing divide among Republicans and Democrats.
“I think that there’s more partisanship today than I’ve seen in the 20 years I’ve been in Congress,” Edwards said. “I think the partisanship might get uglier before American people finally blame one party or the other. And express their views at the ballot box.”
Edwards added he there was still bipartisanship happening, albeit behind the scenes, but the more cooperative interaction among members doesn’t hit the radar as much as the conflicts.
Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., defeated by Republican Frank Guinta, said the media’s focus on negativity paints an unfair picture.
“I have listened to people on television say things like, ‘Well, everybody’s on the take in Washington,’ as if that’s a given fact. And I think it just makes people more cynical about the whole process,” Shea-Porter said. “That’s not true. That’s not true at all.”
Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., was taken out in his primary by Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell. Castle said that the more alarming division he sees is amongst members of his own party.
“It was one thing when you were dealing with Democrats and Republicans. Now you’re dealing with divisions within your own party,” he said.
Castle, a known centrist, also commented that working with the other party has come to be viewed as a sin.
“I mean, I know I suffered in my primary defeat on the basis that I had supported some Democratic legislation, supported the president from time to time. And that was treated as a great sin,” Castle told ABC News.
The four retiring members also expressed concern over special interest money. Congresswoman Shea-Porter said watching its growing influence has been her biggest disappointment.
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