Social Issues / America And Congress
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Autor: anton 15 September 2010
Words: 753 | Pages: 4
In the past century, people continued to express an increasingly discontent view of Congress especially true when one looks back before the Clinton Impeachment debacle As the size of the nation and the number of congressman have grown, the congress has come under attack by both public influences and congressman themselves. Yet looking at one congressman's relationship with his or her constituents, it would be hard to believe that this is the branch of government that has come under suspect. In â€œIf Ralph Nader says congress is 'The broken branch,' how come we love our congressman so much?â€ author Richard F. Fenno, Jr., provides insight into this view and why, through congress coming under fire, constituents still feel positively about there congressmen. Although congress is often criticized, its fine tuned functioning is essential in checking the power of congress without hindering the making of legislation
Fenno begins by relating the information that he had followed ten representatives home and had heard much praise from their constituents. He then goes into an analysis of how different one feels towards members of this institution and the institution itself. He states that one has different standards towards the institution and its members. â€œâ€¦we apply different standards of judgment, those we apply to the individual being less demanding than those we apply to the institutionâ€ (385) He goes on to say that for a congressman one wishes them to have a style that is individual but views that do not differ far from those of his constituency. As for congress, one expects the institution to be able to hastily salve national problems and make pertinent legislation at a prolific rate. He also states that because congress is the most familiar of the branches of government to the masses that it is only expected for most of the criticism to fall on this branch. He then talks of what he calls â€œA deeper dynamic of the political systemâ€ (386). He states that by nature of the system, senators and representatives are more inclined to put greater concern into individual performance than that of the performance of the institution itself. Mentioning that by looking to satisfy ones own constituents, they are doing what is asked of a representative. Feno then goes on to talk about comities focusing more on the House. He states that there are two kinds of committees, â€œcommittees which its members wish to pyramid their influence and therefore maintain their influence of their committee in the houseâ€ and committees were members are interested in national recognition (388). He defends the seniority rule which is used as a determining factors when choosing a committee chair and often is criticized. He says that although he does not see it as the best way of determining importance, it is not the biggest problem with committees, and often the committee majority is responsible for many of the problems.
Fenno makes very interesting argument, but upon deeper analysis one can see that these problems that he mentions may serve purpose. Fenno talks of the unfair expectations that the general public has towards the institution of congress. When looking at this from the view of the founding fathers, the argument could be made that although this affect may not have been foreseen, it serves as another check on the power of an institution that had already shown its susceptibility to corruption. Madison or Hamilton would also argue that the fact that congress comes under attack because of its close connection to the people a good thing because this is the institution that requires the closest watch. Feno also brings up the tendency that a congressman cares more about his or her individual performance than the performance of congress itself. The founding fathers would argue that with all congressman having their constituent's interests in mind also serves as check against bad and potentially harmful legislation. The conflicting goals of the congressman, although slowing the legislative process, ensure better legislation. In Nelson W. Polsby's article, â€œCongress Bashing For Beginnersâ€, Polsby talks of how previously proposed term limitations would hurt this essential conflict of interests (395).
Many of these things that are criticized are quite essential in checking the power of a branch of government that has shown to be easily corrupted. It is only natural that people criticize decision making from a group of people who are separated from their lives. However, this group of people is essential in having a functional republic. This is the curse of being a legislator; to help and be hated.
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