While bipartisanship is increasingly rare in Washington, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) extended an olive branch to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) after she tweeted about wanting to ban members of Congress from taking lucrative lobbying contracts. The freshman Congresswoman accepted his offer, and the two are reportedly now working on legislation.
The offer stemmed from Cruz’s response to Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet in which she said “I don’t think it should be legal AT ALL to become a corporate lobbyist if you’ve served in Congress.” Ocasio-Cortez quote-tweeted a graphic from the group Public Citizen, which showed that nearly 60% of former members of the 115th Congress (between 2016 and 2018) have since taken on lobbying contracts to influence Congress in favor of their new clients.
One of the former members of Congress included in Public Citizen’s chart is former Rep. Joe Crowley (D-New York), the former House Democratic Caucus chairman whom Ocasio-Cortez defeated in a 2018 primary election. Prior to losing the primary, Crowley represented the district for nearly two decades. He now works at a lobbying firm that is pushing Congress to pass President Trump’s trade agenda on behalf of clients in the pharmaceutical industry.
If you are a member of Congress + leave, you shouldn’t be allowed to turn right around&leverage your service for a lobbyist check.
I don’t think it should be legal at ALL to become a corporate lobbyist if you’ve served in Congress.
At minimum there should be a long wait period. https://t.co/xMu9Mwmdm6
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 30, 2019
However, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez followed up her initial tweet by acknowledging the elephant in the room of pairing a lobbying ban with an increase in Congressional salaries, which she called an “understandably unpopular” proposal.
“[W]e *have* to have 2 residences & pay for it out of pocket. BUT we‘re banned from writing it off as a work expense. Boo hoo, right? Well, that incentivizes loopholes,” the Bronx Congresswoman tweeted.
For ex, members of Congress have strict restrictions that most of the public don’t have.
1 case: bc of our jobs we *have* to have 2 residences & pay for it out of pocket. BUT we‘re banned from writing it off as a work expense.
Boo hoo, right? Well, that incentivizes loopholes.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 30, 2019
Despite Ocasio-Cortez identifying as a Democratic Socialist, Ted Cruz, who is one of the most conservative Republicans in the Senate, responded to her tweet with one of his own asking if she would work with him on a bill that would institute a ban on former members of Congress taking lobbying jobs.
“Here’s something I don’t say often: on this point, I AGREE with @AOC,” Cruz tweeted. “I have long called for a LIFETIME BAN on former Members of Congress becoming lobbyists. The Swamp would hate it, but perhaps a chance for some bipartisan cooperation?”
Here’s something I don’t say often: on this point, I AGREE with @AOC Indeed, I have long called for a LIFETIME BAN on former Members of Congress becoming lobbyists. The Swamp would hate it, but perhaps a chance for some bipartisan cooperation? https://t.co/jPW0xkH2Yy
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 30, 2019
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez responded to Cruz Thursday afternoon, and said that if Cruz would promise to not sneak in any “partisan snuck-in clauses” and “poison pills,” and promised to work on a bill that would solely address a lobbying ban, she would take him up on his offer.
“You’re on,” Cruz responded.
It’s possible that Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez may have a partner in their endeavor to get rid of the trend of former members of Congress becoming lobbyists in Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). In late 2018, the senior senator from Massachusetts rolled out a sweeping anti-corruption platform that would not only ban members of Congress, former presidents, and former cabinet secretaries from lobbying, but would require lobbyists for foreign governments to register as foreign agents.
Warren’s legislation also expanded the definition of a lobbyist to include more people who work to influence the federal government. And according to a Politico article about the legislation, Warren called for an increase in Congressional pay so “low-paid staffers don’t feel compelled to audition for jobs with influence peddlers when they should be standing up to them.”
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.