The Buzz

The facts, faces and hum of local politics with Steve Kraske and Dave Helling

Wheat: Congress not really dysfunctional

09/16/2013 1:50 PM

09/16/2013 1:51 PM

Former U.S. Rep. Alan Wheat

has accepted a job with the KC-based Polsinelli law firm. He’ll run the firm’s public policy practice in its DC office.

He talked with the Buzz about his new job on Monday, along with former U.S. Rep.

Kenny Hulshof,

also a part of the practice.

We asked about the problems with Congress, and the revolving door of former members working as lobbyists.

Answers are edited for clarity and length.

There is a lot of criticism of members leaving Congress, then leaving for the other side. You hear a lot of people with concerns. How do you address that?

WHEAT: We try to make sure that what we do, we do in a straightforward and direct way. There’s nothing that we do that’s secretive. We try to make government work like it was intended to work.

Congress is as dysfunctional as it has even been. What’s gone wrong? Or right?

WHEAT: There would be some Republicans who would say some things are going right because government is moving at a slower pace than it used to. That’s all part of the tension of government. I would say in an earlier era there was more of a sense of coming together to get things done.

(But) that’s what happens with a representative form of government. Eventually there will be some resolution of this question, and government will go forward.

But the public seems to be losing patience with the federal government


WHEAT: The talk day after day is nothing is going to get done. But eventually something does get done. Agreements are (reached), and government moves ahead and our country forges ahead. No one is completely satisfied with the results. But it does work.

We haven’t had a farm bill in two years


HULSHOF: It’s just a different challenge. The old days of having a line-item earmark, now we have a continuing resolution. How do we help our clients navigate in this new arena? That’s what is challenging.

WHEAT: It is constantly changing. I’m sure when Kenny arrived there were members saying ‘oh, the 80s were the good old days.’ When I was there in the 80s, members were saying ‘oh the 70s, the good old days.’ It is constantly evolving.

But when you were there, you did Social Security reform. You did immigration reform. You did tax reform. There was a budget package.


Obamacare has essentially just passed. Arguably the greatest change in health care in the last 100 years. In their time, Medicare and Medicaid were just as controversial.

So you don’t think it’s as dysfunctional as we see it?


We see the most dysfunctional part. But it still functions. The dyfunction is clearly on greater public display than it used to be.


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