The Washington gridlock facing the nation stems from the “gerrymandering” of congressional districts, polarizing an already political process, former U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon said Monday.
Gerrymandering is the drawing of election districts to give a political party or group an advantage.
Melancon said redrawing of district lines has resulted in the squeezing out of office moderate Democrats and Republicans who helped drive congressional compromises.
“It’s all about who the government is controlled by,” Melancon said of redistricting.
“It ought to be about concise compact districts people can run from.”
Melancon, a Democrat from Napoleonville, told the Press Club of Baton Rouge that he has seen districts drawn to benefit the extremes of both political parties. Some of his former congressional colleagues were ousted by tea party extremists in redrawn districts, he said.
The gridlock in Washington is not about Obamacare or the budget, Melancon said.
“It’s about the tea party and they are still trying to flex their muscle,” he said.
Melancon said people in Congress used to be able to find “common ground to govern and in the last decade, the last several years, things have gotten extra partisan. It is not about governing.”
Some have lost sight they are there “to serve the people and uphold the Constitution,” he said. “No one wants to sit down. No one wants to give or take. Everyone seems to want it their way or the highway and they will never get it done.”
Melancon said the standoff will end because of pressure from the business community, Wall Street and “the way foreign countries look at the U.S.” and its economic health.
Melancon, who aligned himself with the moderate Blue Dog Democrats, said it is time for a constitutional amendment to provide for redistricting commissions in each state to develop fair election districts.
But he said the chances of that occurring anytime soon are slim.
Melancon served three terms in Congress, then ran an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2010 against Sen. David Vitter, R-La.
Today, Melanon has aligned himself with the “Fix the Debt” group, which includes 140 former members of Congress, 100-plus economists from across the nation, almost 200 CEOs of publicly traded companies, 360,000 residents who have signed a petition and others trying to push resolution of the issue.
The group is pushing Congress to look at prior studies and pick up from there on recommendations dealing with the strength of the Social Security System, the beginning of legitimate tax revamps, fixing military retiree health care provisions and encouraging use of lower-cost generic drugs in Medicare and Medicaid, Melancon said.
Melancon said to develop a fiscal plan will take bipartisan action and modifications to all areas of the budget.