This week brought the teaming up of two extremely unlikely allies: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the young democratic socialist who has won over swarms of followers with her vibrant, engaged social media strategy, and Ted Cruz, a middle-aged, conservative Republican who, while he has his fans, is not exactly famous for being a media darling (or, for that matter, very slick with Twitter.)
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted Thursday that members of Congress who leave office “shouldn’t be allowed to run right around & leverage your service for a lobbyist check.”
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
Sen. Cruz (R-TX) who, as it turns out, was following her tweets, replied: “Here’s something I don’t say often: on this point, I AGREE with @AOC.”
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
Within hours, the two agreed to co-sponsor a bill that, in Ocasio-Cortez’s words, contained “no partisan snuck-in clauses, no poison pills, etc – just a straight, clean ban on members of Congress becoming paid lobbyists.”
Is this a sign that bipartisanship has not totally and irrevocably flatlined in this hyper-polarized moment? Proof that not even Ted Cruz can resist AOC’s charming and engaging social media posts? Or just evidence that the scourge of the Congress-to-lobbyist fast-track is so rampant and destructive that even two people who likely see eye-to-eye on little in the world of policy can agree that something needs to be done about it?
As Ocasio-Cortez noted, the advocacy group Public Citizen found that nearly 60% of former Congress members who leave politics will get into lobbying or another track where they can wield influence over federal policy. An analysis by the Atlantic found especially stark numbers in recent years:
Of the nearly four dozen lawmakers who left office after the 2016 election, one-fourth stayed in Washington, and one in six became lobbyists, according to an analysis by The Atlantic. The numbers were even higher for those who departed after the 2014 midterms: About half of those former members stuck around, and around one in four became lobbyists.
At present, this bipartisan Cruz-Ocasio-Cortez bill is just a bunch of viral tweets and a pledge. According to NPR, “Neither Cruz’s nor Ocasio-Cortez’s offices immediately responded [when asked] whether their staffers had started to collaborate on potential legislation.”