In his retirement announcement, Republican Sen. Saxby Cambliss cited "the dearth of meaningful action from Congress" as one reason for not seeking re-election next year.
"The debt-ceiling debacle of 2011 and the recent fiscal-cliff vote showed Congress at its worst and, sadly, I don't see the legislative gridlock and partisan posturing improving anytime soon," the Capitol Hill veteran said in a statement.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin can appreciate Chambliss' sentiments.
When was asked earlier this month about the functionality of Congress, he chalked up the body's poor legislative record to a few problems. The most important one, he said, was the fact that members don't know one another outside of work.
"In two years [since he came to Washington], we have not had, in the Senate, a bipartisan caucus, where Democrats and Republicans talked about the problems of the day to try and find commonality," he lamented.
Manchin is not alone.
"It is very sad. And I know many times I would look up on TV and I would see somebody and then the name would come up and it would say 'member of Congress' and I'd go 'I don't even know who that is,'" said former Republican Rep. Connie Mack, who lost his re-election bid in November.
It is a common refrain on the Hill -- the idea that if Congress were more social, more buddy-buddy outside the Capitol complex, that it would be more functional in doing the people's work.
The good old days
The truth is not that simple, according to former leaders of the Senate and House.
The nostalgia for the "good ol' days," when members would play tennis atop the Hart Office Building and drink whiskey after hours, may be tempting to admire, but it is far from the cure-all for Washington's seemingly unbreakable gridlock, they say.
"Nostalgia is always great," Dan Glickman, a former Democratic representative from Kansas and senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said with a laugh.
"Sometimes I remember my life as congressman in the '80s positively and my wife says I am dreaming. 'You hated it,' she will say," he said.
Glickman was in Congress from 1977 to 1995 then was President Bill Clinton's agriculture secretary until 2001. He said he watched Congress change in the late 1990s and 2000s and wondered about the tipping point.
His synopsis: Congress is like other organizations, except it has 535 independent contractors rather than a business-like structure built around a chain of command.
"Congress is no different than any other organization, if people don't get along, then you get dysfunction," Glickman said. "Basic principles of just human interaction are if you don't like each other and you distrust each other, that is a recipe for an unproductive life."
If numbers are any judge, the 112th Congress was markedly unproductive. The 220 laws enacted were the least in four decades. One fifth dealt with naming or renaming post offices and federal buildings.
By comparison, the 100th Congress enacted 713 laws.
DC an electoral death trap
Being more sociable "is not the cure-all," Glickman said.
Other former members of Congress and high-level aides say the good old days may have been nicer, sociability won't lead to bipartisanship.
"I think it is broader and bigger than that," said former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. "I don't want too much revisionist history. Everybody said that was the golden era [in the early 90s]. It was not always easy, though. We had some pretty tough disagreements."
Lott points to the welfare debate between Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich and impeachment proceedings against the president in the late 90s as examples.
For men like Glickman and Lott, the problems of Congress are deeper than whether they dine, drink and hang out with each other.
The fact that California is only a five-hour flight from Washington means that members can easily get into town on a Monday and head out by Thursday night, leaving no time to socialize.