Dirty Money, Dysfunction and Disappointment: Retiring Members Dish on the Congress They Leave Behind

Jonathan Karl sits down with four members be returning for the 112th Congress.

ByABC News
December 21, 2010, 12:55 PM

Dec. 23, 2010 -- In an ABC News exclusive interview, four retiring representatives sat down with senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl for a candid look at their time in the U.S. Congress.

Although the panel of represented a wide range of political views and years on Capitol Hill, the two Democrats and two Republicans, all defeated in their bids for re-election last November, found common ground:

All were disappointed, for example, by the vitriolic partisanship, which created what one member called "the most dysfunctional Congress'' in his entire life. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who lost his gubernatorial primary bid, had some strong last words about the state of Congress as he sees it.

"Congress is more dysfunctional today than when I got here 16 years ago, and probably more dysfunctional than at any time in the 53 years I've been alive," Wamp told Karl. "We're not passing budgets. We're not moving appropriations bills. We're not blocking and tackling, because the division is so great."

Wamp said his greatest overall disappointment had been watching the erosion of the unity formed in the aftermath of 9/11.

Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, who lost to Republican Bill Flores, echoed Wamp's worry over the increasing divide among Republicans and Democrats.

"I think that there's more partisanship today than I've seen in the 20 years I've been in Congress," Edwards said. "I think the partisanship might get uglier before the American people finally blame one party or the other, and express their views at the ballot box."

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., who was defeated by Republican Frank Guinta, joked that even her social worker background couldn't prepare her for the challenges and personalities she faced during her time on the Hill.

" I thought, well, I have pretty good people skills," she said. "Well, it's run up against a wall, a wall of people refusing to even sit down and start to talk about an issue."

Another commonality that emerged among the retiring members centered on the influx of Tea Partiers in the 112th Congress. All retiring members expressed reservations about the new Congress members' ability to work together, fearing the surge of conservative, hard-line candidates would will further divide an already deeply partisan legislature.