"When I first came to Washington, members had six roundtrip air tickets paid for," Lott said. "Now it is unlimited, you can use whatever part of your budget on airfare."
"Congress is becoming a commuter Congress," said former Democratic Sen. Bryon Dorgan from North Dakota.
Living in Washington also has become an electoral death trap.
"If members are going to be social with each other, it is going to have to be in Washington," said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of The Rothenberg Political Report. "Members are spending the least amount of time in Washington as possible because they don't want the baggage of being seen as 'too Washington.'"
Funds are raised from the extremes, not in the middle, said Patrick Kennedy, a former House member from Rhode Island who did not seek re-election in 2010. Until there are well-funded outside groups funding centrist candidates, he said, the polarization of the House and Senate will get worse.
"You [a member of Congress] follow the money and you follow the activists and of course those folks, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, keep you out of the middle because the middle is the valley of death politically," Kennedy said.
Lott believes President Barack Obama is a big part of the problem.
"He doesn't really invite Democrats over there very often, let alone Republicans," he said.
The truism that Obama isn't social enough with Congress was a common refrain during his first four years in office and that won't change, if history is any judge.
When asked about it, the president generally laughs it off, references his kids and moves on.
He did exactly that on January 15 when a reporter asked him whether he and the White House staff "are too insular."
"Obviously, I can always do a better job," Obama said. "And the nice thing is that now that my girls are getting older, they don't want to spend that much time with me anyway, so I'll be probably calling around, looking for somebody to play cards with me or something, because I'm getting kind of lonely in this big house."
Some Democrats, like Jim Manley, a former spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, say the idea that more would get done if Obama were more of a schmoozer is wrong.
"Anyone who thinks that by virtue of the president inviting Senator [Mitch] McConnell down to the White House to watch a movie is going to help improve things needs to get their head examined," Manley said. "That is not the way it works."
But if you ask Capitol Hill watchers like Gonzales, the distance between Obama and Congress is an issue.
Democrats want a fuller embrace from their leader in the White House, while Republicans feel they aren't getting the level of respect they deserve.
For that to happen, says Gonzales, there has to be something in it for both sides.
"What is the incentive for them [the president and Republicans] to foster these relationships," Gonzales said. "Their time is valuable, just to be friends for the sake of being friends, I don't know that they have time. It is good in theory, but until they see the fruits of that time investment."
For Lott, the fruits of investing in collegiality are obvious -- lifelong friendships.
Lott said he still considers Democrat and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle a good friend, and that he has spent weekends away with former Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, both Republicans, and their wives.
Lott's most enduring relationship from Congress seems to be with Phil Gramm, a Democrat who switched parties in the House and then became a Republican senator from Florida.
Lott and his wife, Patricia, are close with Gramm and his wife, Wendy Lee. Last year they traveled to South Africa and Botswana on a personal trip together and the foursome plans to go to Turkey in June.
"Friends are for life," Lott said about Gramm. "Especially if they are real friends."