Former Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., credited with pushing through major bipartisan legislation during his 36-year career, is urging an end to the limitless taxpayer-funded trips home for House and Senate members, calling it a key step in repairing politically divided Washington.
"You got elected to Congress. You didn't get elected to the city council back in the town you're from. You are supposed to come here and spend the time," he said at a Brookings Institution event to discuss a new book about the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, "Act of Congress."
A famous backslapper who calls several Republicans friends, Dodd has joined a growing cry for members to socialize more with each other, believing it will lead to greater bipartisanship and legislating.
"They don't know each other at all," said Dodd, decrying members who sleep in their offices during the week and rush home Thursday night and don't return until Monday, presumably robbing themselves of time to socialize.
"The only thing people know about each other is what party they belong to or what ideology they embrace. They don't know what they care about, what their kids care about, what their hobbies are, all those basic things that any institution needs if you are going to be successful," he said. "That does an awful lot of damage, that people don't know each other."
Dodd, who didn't run for re-election in 2010 and is now chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, suggested returning to a system similar to what existed when he arrived in Congress in 1975. Members then were limited to two taxpayer-funded trips home a year.
"Pay for it out of your campaign account or pay for it personally. You've got to spend time here," he said.