From the archives: Senate malcontents speak out
What's wrong with the U.S. Senate? That's what Steve Kroft wanted to know when he sat down with some of the body's most disgruntled current and former members.
But this isn't the first time Senate malcontents have spoken out on 60 Minutes. Back in 1995, Ed Bradley sat down with a group of nine senators who were fed up and quitting the Senate.
Ed's story, posted in the above video player, featured prominent senators from both sides of the aisle, airing complaints. Sen. Alan Simpson said that the fundraising requirements of a senator's job are a big part of the problem.
"It has a corrupt influence on all of us," he told Ed. "If I get into a hotel in Chicago at midnight and there are 20 phone calls waiting for me...[and] the 20th is someone who is giving me $1,000 campaign contribution, at midnight I'm not going to make 20 phone calls. I might make one. Which one do you think I'm going to make?"
The pressure to constantly raise funds has has only grown for senators. Indiana's Evan Bayh, who left the Senate last year, told Steve Kroft this week, "It is not uncommon for the life of a senator who's running for reelection to be a fundraiser for breakfast, a fundraiser for lunch, a fundraiser for dinner."
The Senate's ideological shift toward extreme political viewpoints is another complaint of senators then and now. Louisiana's Bennett Johnston (D) told Ed in 1995 that moderates are becoming "an endangered species" in the Senate. The loss of moderate voices makes compromise difficult, to say the least. Democratic Sen. Nancy Kassebaum told Ed that even the word "compromise" was regarded as wimpish. "Compromise is not part of what we do around here anymore," admitted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his 60 Minutes interview this week.
Is there a cure for what ails the U.S. Senate? We asked Steve Kroft that question in our Correspondent Candid this week, and here's his answer: "Elect better senators."
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