Jack Ohman

Editorial cartoonists and the U.S. Senate: Let's get transactional...

Former Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, a Republican and one of the first electoral victims of the Tea Party movement in 2010, spoke to the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists today and seemed profoundly relieved he wasn't in the U.S. Senate.

Lanky and jug-eared, Bennett spoke about the lack of what he called "transactional" relationships in Congress. For example, Bennett observed that when he was the ranking member of the committee chaired by Sen. Chuck Schumer, (D-NY) widely believed to be the next Senate Majority Leader, Schumer was more than happy to give him virtually anything he wanted.

This left many of my peers puzzling over that comment. Why would Chuck Schumer, a liberal Democrat, give Bob Bennett, a conservative Republican, everything he wanted?

"Because he knew he may need my next vote."

Pressed by editorial cartoonist Steve Kelley about what, precisely, he got from Schumer, Bennett said, "Nothing ideological."

I suppose he meant he got nicer office furniture, or some better office space for his staff. Or an awesome new dam for a Utah river. You know, a transaction.

Bennett, who was defeated at the 2010 Utah GOP convention and not allowed to proceed on to a primary that he likely would have won, was still stinging from the ascendancy of now-Sen. Mike Lee, who is up for re-election in 2016. Bennett said if the Tea Party movement hadn't flexed its muscles (asserting the group may have cost the GOP six seats), the GOP would likely still be in control. But they did.

That's a transaction Chuck Schumer really loves. He might even throw in some new office furniture.

Bennett's point, of course, is that Congress is now in complete stalemate because senators like him and, say, Maine's Olympia Snowe, are no longer there to provide critical votes so that some things, ideological or not, could actually get done. 

When you have a former Republican senator from Utah, a Mormon and former Nixon Administration official, saying that the Congress is no longer transactional, it makes you wonder how much it worse it could get.

I suppose it could be filled with cartoonists.

We don't do transactional.