An unlikely pair ready to put a wedge in the revolving door. But could it work?
A pair of polarizing firebrands from opposite ends of the political spectrum have promised to work together to solve a perennial hot-button annoyance of clean government advocates.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez agreed last week to collaborate on a bill to shut down the revolving door between Congress and K Street.
But it's unclear the extra attention drawn to the issue from such an odd political couple will jumpstart a legislative campaign that has always stalled in the past. And it's just as unclear a lifetime ban on former members lobbying on Capitol Hill, which the two proposed, could actually work as intended.
Among those who left Congress this year and taken jobs outside of politics, almost 60 percent are already lobbying or involved in work that influences federal policy, according to the watchdog group Public Citizen.
In response, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: "I don't think it should be legal at ALL to become a corporate lobbyist if you've served in Congress."
Cruz then tweeted his agreement, reiterating his previous call for a lifelong ban – and acknowledging a rare moment of harmony with a lawmaker he's excoriated several times on social media for her liberal positions, most recently in favor of doubling the minimum wage.
"If we can agree on a bill with no partisan snuck-in clauses, no poison pills, etc - just a straight, clean ban on members of Congress becoming paid lobbyists - then I'll co-lead the bill with you," Ocasio-Cortez replied. "You're on," came his reply.
A study three years ago by a trio of political scientists found that since the 1970s the number of senators who lobby has gone up by 55 percent and the roster of former House member lobbyists by 40 percent.
That's even though former senators are banned from directly lobbying Congress for two years and former House members for one year. But they are permitted to immediately lobby the executive branch, including administration officials who were once their lawmaking peers. And the Capitol Hill cooling-off period does not say anything about ex-members acting as advisers, consultants or even partners in lobby shops – so long as they don't have direct contact with their onetime colleagues.
It is that significant loophole that would seem to be immune from the sort of legislation Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez are talking about.
Republicans Mike Braun of Indiana and Rick Scott of Florida have proposed Senate legislation to ban ex-lawmakers from lobbying. Republican Trey Hollingsworth of Indiana of a companion bill in the House. Neither bill has any co-sponsors. Neither does a Senate bill by Democrat Jon Tester of Montana that would create a five-year limit on revolving door spinning. That is what Donald Trump proposed as part of his "drain the swamp" agenda in the 2016 campaign, but he has not done anything visible to promote the idea since becoming president.
Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?
To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."
The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.
The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.
But in general, young adults have a lot more trust issues than their elders
Sixty percent of young adults in the United States believe other people "can't be trusted," according to a recent Pew Research survey, which found that younger Americans were far more likely than older adults to distrust both institutions and other people. But adults of all ages did agree on one thing: They all lack confidence in elected leaders.
While united in a lack of confidence, the cohorts disagreed on whether that's a major problem. The study found that young adults (ages 18-29) were less likely than older Americans to believe that poor confidence in the federal government, the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups were "very big problems."