Flip on cable news and it quickly becomes clear that Democrats and Republicans in Congress don't like each other. Even more troubling is that they barely even know one another.
One former member of Congress recalled: "I took a Democratic House member who was a friend of mine to a Republican caucus meeting and as we walked around the room, it dawned on me that no one had ever met this guy, even though he was well into his second term in Congress."
After the Super Committee failed last November, another Republican member said he couldn't have picked one of his Democratic colleagues "out of a lineup" before the negotiation process started.
Although partisanship has always been and always will be a part of Congress, there was a time when members actually made an effort to build relationships with people from the other party. Today, they're more likely to glare at each other from the comfort of their partisan bunkers.
It's easy to demonize and hard to compromise with someone you barely know.
Like any workplace, Congress depends on good human relationships to function. When there are no relationships, there's dysfunction. To get members talking to one another, both the House and Senate should institute monthly bipartisan gatherings. The gatherings would be off the record and not be televised. If both sides agreed, outside experts could be invited in to brief members on topics of concern.
This proposal can be imposed by House or Senate leadership.