A Cure for Congress?

With Washington stalled in partisan gridlock, a seemingly counterintuitive idea is catching on among some of the political elite: bring back the smoke-filled room.

"We elected these people. Let them go back into a room like they always did," says Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, who also endorsed the idea of returning to federal earmarks, the specially tailored spending measures that have long greased dealmaking in the Capitol.

House Speaker John Boehner banned all earmarks in 2011, with the support of President Obama, in a nod to increasing transparency. But defenders, including many members of...

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