Need a hit on Capitol Hill? Take your pick. Members and staffers alike are addicted to Twitter, where they log on for their daily stims of outrage. Cable news has also become a kind of drug, as congressmen stampede to the Fox News and CNN green rooms rather than go about the irritating business of legislating.

But if we're looking for a way out of the present congressional gridlock, I think we need to turn to an older and wiser substance. "Alcoholism is as much of an occupational disease among politicians as black lung is among...

Need a hit on Capitol Hill? Take your pick. Members and staffers alike are addicted to Twitter, where they log on for their daily stims of outrage. Cable news has also become a kind of drug, as congressmen stampede to the Fox News and CNN green rooms rather than go about the irritating business of legislating.

But if we’re looking for a way out of the present congressional gridlock, I think we need to turn to an older and wiser substance. “Alcoholism is as much of an occupational disease among politicians as black lung is among coal miners,” Herman Talmadge once wrote. Talmadge, who served as a Georgia senator from 1957 to 1981, would know: he once took a month off from his senatorial responsibilities to get treated for alcoholism. His colleague Senator Fritz Hollings defended this sober sabbatical, chalking it up to “the strain of hard work and dedication on behalf of the people.”

Members of Congress and their staffs used to drink — really drink. Their staffs still do, of course. Pop into a Capitol Hill watering hole like the Hawk and Dove or Tune Inn and you’ll find twentysomethings in cheap suits gathered around a beer pitcher like it’s a magic lantern, slurring things like “dude the COS totally just got the member on Approps!” This culture is actually a lot more fun than it sounds, and it’s probably unavoidable. Hire a bunch of twentysomethings, force them to work long hours, grossly underpay them (they’re Hill staffers, for God’s sake, not diversity consultants!), and you know what’s going happen.

The same goes for the interns, for whom Washington is both a playground and a power rush. (The group Unbeltway back in 2011 did a nice satire of Capitol Hill intern drinking called “Interns on the Metro,” to the tune of Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro.”) Yet if the help is allowed to indulge, what doesn’t happen so much anymore is senators and congressmen sitting down over a bottle to work out their differences. So it is that Kevin McCarthy is preparing for another afternoon of bashing his head into the cement. Stacks of pizzas have been ferried through the halls of Congress as Republicans continue to negotiate. Yet the beer is notably MIA. Why?

This seems like a gross breach of congressional tradition. John Quincy Adams once remarked that more than one congressman could be found “drunk in the chair.” Thomas Balcerski of Eastern Connecticut State University notes that “alcohol suffused the culture of Congress in the first half of the nineteenth century,” and in fact, “before their arrival in the capital, many owed their election to the distribution of alcohol to voters on election day.” This changed somewhat during Prohibition, but the 20th century had its own proud history of backroom (and frontroom) boozing. Senator Everett Dirksen used to keep a bar in his office with a clock on which every number was a five.

The British still understand the importance of this, with periodic glimpses into UK Parliament revealing a rowdy drinking culture centered on the Red Lion pub in Westminster. Why should the Monocle or Bullfeathers not serve the same purpose here? We lost something fundamental when members put down the tumbler in favor of the tweet. If Kevin McCarthy and Chip Roy can’t come to terms, then maybe a trip to the bar is exactly what they need. And if McCarthy and Lauren Boebert can’t resolve their differences, they should throw back shots until they do.

Consider it an overlooked tool of public policy. As my friend Michael Davis notes, “Harry S. Truman took a shot of bourbon every morning before breakfast,” while Gerald Ford made a ritual out of three-martini lunches. Yet three out of the four presidents of the 21st century have been teetotalers. Is it any wonder our government is such a mess, the country is coming apart, and the world seems on fire? As Washington has become drier, it’s also grown more gridlocked and (paradoxically) more obnoxious. It may be that there are worse things in politics than a little tibbling — especially if it’s amid negotiations over a man named “Kevin.”