Chapter 8 Congress Congress Congress



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Chapter 8 Congress

Congress

Congress

Topic Overview

  • Topic Overview
  • To a considerable extent, the complex constitutional structure of Congress, particularly its bicameralism, reflected the need to balance conflicting state interests in 1787.
  • The Senate provided small states with equal representation while the House was to be apportioned according to population.
  • Each body of Congress was to have powers and terms of office to serve its different constituency.

Reading

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Reading
  • James Madison, Federalist 53, 56, 57, 58, 62, 63

Theme

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Theme
  • In these selections from The Federalist, James Madison describes the theory behind the structure of Congress, in particular its bicameralism and the different powers, constituencies, and terms of office given to the House and Senate.

Federalist 53

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Federalist 53
  • Defending the two-year terms adopted in the Constitution, Madison argues that representatives in the House will need some knowledge of national affairs (how things work in the different states), as well as some minimal knowledge of foreign affairs.
  • Because experience in the House counts here, two-year terms are appropriate.

Federalist 53

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Federalist 53
  • Madison also argued that one-year House terms would increase the amount of election fraud in the election of representatives.
  • His reasoning was that it takes a while for election fraud to come to light.
  • If the elections were annual, a representative could buy an election and serve most of his term before the fraud came to light.

Federalist 56

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Federalist 56
  • This paper discusses the size of the United States House of Representatives.
  • It is titled The Same Subject Continued: The Total Number of the House of Representatives.
  • In this paper, Madison addresses the criticism that the House of Representatives is too small to sufficiently understand the varied interests of all its constituents.

Federalist 57

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Federalist 57
  • It is titled The Alleged Tendency of the New Plan to Elevate the Few at the Expense of the Many.
  • Madison advocates the election of “men who possess most wisdom to discern, and ... pursue, the common good of the society.”

Federalist 57

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Federalist 57
  • According to the essay, the representatives will be true to their constituents for the following five reasons.
  • 1. The people chose these distinguished men to uphold their engagements, so the representatives have an obligation to stand by their words.
  • 2. The representatives sense a mark of honor and gratitude and feel at least the tiniest affection to these constituents.

Federalist 57

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Federalist 57
  • 3. Selfish motives of the human nature bind the representative to his constituents because the delegates hope to seek advancement from their followers rather than the government.
  • 4. Also, frequent elections remind the representatives that they are dependent on the constituents for their loyalty and support, and the representatives are compelled to remain faithful to their constituents.

Federalist 57

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Federalist 57
  • 5. The laws created by the legislators will apply to all members of society, including the legislators themselves.

Federalist 58

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Federalist 58
  • This paper examines the ability of the United States House of Representatives to grow with the population of the United States.
  • It is titled Objection that the Number of Members Will Not Be Augmented as the Progress of Population Demands Considered.

Federalist 62

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Federalist 62
  • This is the first of two essays by Madison detailing, and seeking to justify, the organization of the U.S. Senate, and it is titled The Senate.
  • Four key considerations are discussed in Federalist 62.
  • 1. The qualifications of senators (thirty years of age or older/citizen for nine years)

Federalist 62

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Federalist 62
  • 2. The appointment of senators by the state legislatures (later changed to direct popular vote by the Seventeenth Amendment)
  • 3. The equality of representation in the Senate
  • 4. The number of senators (this essay contains only a partial portion of Madison’s points on this issue; the rest of his thoughts are completed in Federalist 63)

Federalist 63

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Federalist 63
  • Continuing what Madison began in Federalist 62, it is the second of two essays detailing and justifying the organization of the United States Senate.
  • Federalist 63 is titled The Senate Continued.
  • This essay is the last of Madison's contributions to the series.
  • In this paper, Madison lays out more reasons for the necessity of the Senate.

Federalist 63

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Federalist 63
  • Madison argues that the Senate, a strong and the most stable member of the government, is needed to ensure lasting relations with foreign nations.
  • He also notes that because senators are elected to six-year terms, they will have sufficient time to be responsible for their actions.
  • The Senate can also serve as a check on the people since, although during most times their will is just, they too are “subject to the periodic infection of violent passions.”

Federalist 63

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Federalist 63
  • Madison also gives examples of past long-lived republics, all of which had a Senate.
  • They, however, had senates elected for life, which, if followed, could threaten the liberty of the people.
  • It is for this reason that the Senate proposed in the Constitution has six-year terms.
  • In this way, the Senate in the Union blends stability with the idea of liberty.

Terms of office for the House and Senate

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Terms of office for the House and Senate
  • The members of the House of Representatives are so dependent on the people that they will be compelled to anticipate the moment when their power is to cease, when their exercise of it is to be reviewed, and when they must descend to the level from which they were raised; there forever to remain unless a faithful discharge of their trust shall have established their title to a renewal of it (Federalist 57).

Terms of office for the House and Senate

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Terms of office for the House and Senate
  • In other words, the two-year term of office is to keep the members of the House strictly accountable to their constituents.
  • There is a six-year term for senators because the Senate is to act as a check upon the House, and one way in which it is to do this is to have a more conservative constituency and a longer term of office, to make it more detached from popular passions.

Terms of office for the House and Senate

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Terms of office for the House and Senate
  • It is not possible that an assembly of men (the House of Representatives) called for the most part from pursuits of a private nature continued in appointments for a short time, and led by no permanent motive to devote the intervals of public occupation to a study of the laws, the affairs, and the comprehensive interests of the country, should, if left wholly to themselves, escape a variety of important errors in the exercise of their legislative trust.

Terms of office for the House and Senate

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Terms of office for the House and Senate
  • The Senate, with its greater wisdom, its longer period of time to study the affairs of legislation, can check the errors of the House (Federalist 62).

A system of checks and balances between the House and the Senate

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • A system of checks and balances between the House and the Senate
  • The House and Senate have not only different terms of office, which provide their members with different perspectives, but also contrasting constituencies.
  • No law or resolution can now be passed without the concurrence, first, of a majority of the people and then of a majority of the states (Federalist 62).

A system of checks and balances between the House and the Senate

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • A system of checks and balances between the House and the Senate
  • Moreover, the mere existence of two separate bodies causes legislative power to be divided and acts as a check on the legislature.
  • It doubles the security to the people by requiring the concurrence of two distinct bodies in schemes of usurpation or perfidy, where the ambition or corruption of one would otherwise be sufficient (Federalist 62).

It is necessary to have an internal check within the legislature itself.

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • It is necessary to have an internal check within the legislature itself.
  • Federalist 62 states that the necessity of a Senate is not less indicated by the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies, to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and to be seduced by factious leaders into intemperate and pernicious resolutions.

Primary functions of the legislature

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Primary functions of the legislature
  • Clearly the legislature was to be the primary policy body.
  • It was to be the dominant legislative force in government subject only to the presidential veto or judicial review.

Significance

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Significance
  • Under the original constitutional plan, it was absolutely clear that Congress was to exercise primary legislative functions.
  • A major difference between the House and the Senate in the Constitution is the popular election of members of the House.

Significance

  • Constitutional Background: Representation of Popular, Group, and National Interests
  • Significance
  • According to Madison in Federalist 62, equality of representation for the states in the Senate was (1) an important check upon improper legislative acts, (2) a check upon majority rule, and (3) the result of compromise between the large and small states.
  • Madison argued in Federalist 63 that the Senate is an important complement to the House because the short term of the House reduces its capacity to give continuity to legislation.

Topic Overview

  • Topic Overview
  • Woodrow Wilson as a graduate student in the 1880s studied and wrote his doctoral dissertation on Congress, which became a classic in congressional literature.
  • The conclusion of Congressional Government calls for more party control of Congress to connect it to public opinion.

Topic Overview

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Topic Overview
  • As Wilson describes Congress in the following selection, committees define its politics, not disciplined parties.
  • Capitol Hill politics reflect an ebb and flow and committee and party control, but the cycles of committee power are longer than those of party dominance.

Reading

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Reading
    • Woodrow Wilson, Congressional Government

Congressional Government

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Congressional Government
  • During the 1880s, Congress was beginning to emerge from an institution citizen legislators dominated to a venue in which professional politicians advanced their political careers.
  • Member reelection and internal power incentives began to shape Congress and led to the rise of multiple committees to serve these incentives.
  • Committees were the little legislatures that collectively defined Congress.

Congressional Government

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Congressional Government
  • Somewhat ironically for a future American president, Wilson greatly admired the parliamentary and party model of government.
  • Committee denomination of Congress reflected a decentralization and fragmentation of the legislative process that advanced special interests and defeated the collective will of popular majorities that parties should represent.

Congressional Government

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Congressional Government
  • He concluded that committee denomination of Congress reflected a decentralization and fragmentation of the legislative process that advanced special interests and defeated the collective will of popular majorities that parties should represent.

Significance

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Significance
  • Woodrow Wilson’s Congressional Government described a Congress controlled by powerful committees.
  • Wilson stated that the most powerful member of Congress was the Speaker of the House.

Significance

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Significance
  • Wilson stated in Congressional Government that (1) the House has as many leaders as there are subjects of legislation; for there are as many Standing Committees, (2) both the House of Representatives and the Senate conduct their business by what may figuratively, but not inaccurately, be called an odd device of disintegration, and (3) disciplined political parties characterize both the House and the Senate.

Reading

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Reading
    • Morris P. Fiorina, The Rise of the Washington Establishment

Theme

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Theme
  • This reading is Fiorina’s thesis from his award-winning book, Congress: Keystone of the Washington Establishment (1977).
  • The thesis is that Congress has created a bureaucracy not only in response to political demands but to enable its members to enhance their reelection prospects by acting as buffers between citizens and the bureaucracy.

Theme

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Theme
  • Congress, which gained credit for establishing the vast number of programs the executive branch administers, steps in after the creation of departments and agencies to receive credit for handling constituent complaints against them.
  • Congressional rhetoric attacks the bureaucracy and the institution of Congress itself, but beneath the rhetoric, committee chairmen, staffers, and administrative agencies often act collusively to advance their mutual political interests.

Assumptions about the Washington political establishment and those within it

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Assumptions about the Washington political establishment and those within it
  • Fiorina assumes that most people most of the time act in their own self-interest.
  • Fiorina assumes that the primary goal of the typical congressman is reelection.
  • Most bureaucrats wish to protect and nurture their agencies, and the typical bureaucrat can be expected to seek to expand his agency in terms of personnel, budget, and mission.

Assumptions about the Washington political establishment and those within it

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Assumptions about the Washington political establishment and those within it
  • The voters wish to receive a maximum of benefits from government for the minimum cost.
  • This goal suggests mutual exploitation of the other.
  • Each of us favors an arrangement in which our fellow citizens pay for our benefits.

Conclusions about the Washington establishment drawn from his assumptions

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Conclusions about the Washington establishment drawn from his assumptions
  • Reelection is the primary goal of congressmen, and they engage in lawmaking, pork-barreling, and casework to achieve reelection.
  • Fiorina states the core of his thesis is that the key to the rise of the Washington establishment (and the vanishing marginals) is the growth of an activist federal government that has stimulated a change in the mix of congressional activities.

Conclusions about the Washington establishment drawn from his assumptions

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Conclusions about the Washington establishment drawn from his assumptions
  • A lesser proportion of congressional effort is now going into programmatic activities and a greater proportion into pork-barrel and casework activities.
  • As a result, today’s congressmen make relatively fewer enemies and relatively more friends among the people of their districts.

Conclusions about the Washington establishment drawn from his assumptions

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Conclusions about the Washington establishment drawn from his assumptions
  • Fiorina concludes that the nature of the Washington system is quite clear.
  • Congressmen earn electoral credits by creating various federal programs, and the minority party typically earns credits by fighting the good fight.
  • In short, without an overbearing bureaucracy, members would have significantly less casework activities they could engage in to gain electoral credits and reelection.

Significance

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Significance
  • Fiorina states that a typical bureaucrat expands the personnel, budget, and mission of his agency.
  • Morris Fiorina states that (1) congressmen find reelection to be at least a necessary condition for the achievement of their goals, (2) congressmen who are not primarily interested in reelection will not achieve reelection as often as those who are interested, and (3) for most of the twentieth century, congressmen have engaged in lawmaking, pork-barreling, and casework.

Significance

  • Congress and the Washington Political Establishment
  • Significance
  • Morris P. Fiorina sees the bureaucracy as helpful to congressmen seeking reelection.
  • The growth of an activist federal government has caused a congressional shift from programmatic to pork-barrel and casework activities.

Topic Overview

  • Topic Overview
  • A major incentive of many members of Congress is personal power on Capitol Hill.
  • Harold Lasswell once stated that politics is about who gets what, when, where, and how.
  • The quest for power is always central to the political game, and power can become an end in itself.

Reading

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Reading
    • Lawrence C. Dodd, Congress and the Quest for Power

Theme

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Theme
  • Lawrence Dodd gives priority to the personal power incentive, which leads him to view Congress more from an internal than external perspective.
  • The pursuit of personal power within Congress supports decentralization and the dispersion of power on Capitol Hill.
  • The power incentive spawns committees and is an important reason for the almost 300 committees and subcommittees within Congress.

Theme

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Theme
  • Congressional scholar Lawrence Dodd argues in this reading that while the personal power incentive usually dominates legislative politics, producing a decentralized Congress dominated by committees and their chairmen, occasionally presidential assaults on Congress cause members to subordinate their desire for personal aggrandizement in order to strengthen Congress as an institution.

Conclusion

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Conclusion
  • Dodd emphasizes that the pursuit of personal power, by supporting committee government, decentralizes power in a way that undermines the ability of Congress to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities to make legislative policy and oversee the implementation of that policy.

Conclusion

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Conclusion
  • Dodd states that it is Congress’ responsiveness to constituent interests that diversifies power on Capitol Hill and the personal quest for power.
  • Congress does, in response to an imperial presidency, make attempts to check the quest for personal power by strengthening its leadership and curbing committee dominance.
  • Inevitably the incentive returns to put Congress once again on the path toward decentralization and dispersion of power through committees.

Conclusion

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Conclusion
  • The author emphasizes that the pursuit of personal power, by supporting committee government, decentralizes power in a way that undermines the ability of Congress to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities to make legislative policy and oversee the implementation of that policy.
  • Congress is too responsive to be responsible because it is not only responsiveness to constituent interests that diversifies power on Capitol Hill but, more importantly, the personal quest for power.

Conclusion

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Conclusion
  • Periodically Congress does, in response to an imperial presidency, make attempts to get its House in order by strengthening its leadership and curbing committee dominance.
  • While such attempts may in the short term push the quest for personal power to the background, inevitably the incentive returns to put Congress once again on the path toward decentralization and dispersion of power through committees.

Personal-power incentive on Capitol Hill affects Congress as an institution.

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Personal-power incentive on Capitol Hill affects Congress as an institution.
  • Power is symbolized by position and by the reputation for power.
  • More opportunities exist for personal power in an institution that is decentralized and that has many power positions, such as committee and subcommittee chairmanships.
  • Dodd states that members of Congress enter politics in a quest for personal power.

Personal-power incentive on Capitol Hill affects Congress as an institution.

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Personal-power incentive on Capitol Hill affects Congress as an institution.
  • This quest may derive from any number of deeper motives such as (1) a desire for ego and gratification or for prestige, (2) a search for personal salvation through good works, (3) a hope to construct a better world or to dominate the present one, or (4) a preoccupation with status and self-love.

Personal-power incentive on Capitol Hill affects Congress as an institution.

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Personal-power incentive on Capitol Hill affects Congress as an institution.
  • The personal-power incentive becomes a zero-sum game in which some members win and others lose in an institution with limited power positions.
  • In such an institution the power incentive places members into combat with each other.
  • The greater the dispersion of power, the less conflict there is among members competing for a limited number of positions that are power symbols.

Personal-power incentive on Capitol Hill affects Congress as an institution.

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Personal-power incentive on Capitol Hill affects Congress as an institution.
  • One logical solution to conflict caused by the personal-power incentive is to place basic policymaking responsibility in a series of discrete and relatively autonomous committees and subcommittees, each having control over the decisions in a specified jurisdictional area.
  • Each member can belong to a small number of committees and, within them, have a significant and perhaps dominant influence on policy.

Contrast the reelection incentive and the personal-power incentive

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Contrast the reelection incentive and the personal-power incentive
  • Reelection obviously has to occur before members can play the power game in Congress.
  • Reelection by large margins helps members in their quest for internal power by creating an aura of personal legitimacy.
  • It indicates that one has a special mandate from the people, that one’s position is fairly secure, and that one will have to be reckoned with.

Contrast the reelection incentive and the personal-power incentive

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Contrast the reelection incentive and the personal-power incentive
  • Long-term electoral success bestows on a member of Congress the opportunity to gain the experience and expertise, and to demonstrate the legislative skill and political prescience, that can serve to justify the exercise of power.
  • After advertising and credit claiming have helped to create the incumbency effect and the decline of marginality, members can turn their serious attention to building personal power on Capitol Hill.

Normal stages of a congressional career

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Normal stages of a congressional career
  • First, members devote their time to shoring up their electoral base.
  • Members always have to devote a great deal of time to their reelection, returning to their districts several days a week while Congress is in session and full time as elections approach.

Normal stages of a congressional career

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Normal stages of a congressional career
  • The second stage involves members pursuing personal power while moving up the committee or congressional party ladder and getting a large and expert staff to increase their policy expertise and credibility.
  • Holding a power position does not suffice to give a member sufficient credibility to wield power.
  • A member must maintain the respect, trust, and confidence of other members; he or she must sustain the aura of personal authority that is necessary to legitimize the exercise of power.

Significance

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Significance
  • The personal-power incentive tends to produce a Congress that is decentralized.
  • A junior member of Congress in the first stage of his or her congressional career is concerned mostly with reelection.
  • The quest for personal power in Congress supports a diversified and powerful committee system.

Significance

  • Committee Chairmen as Political Entrepreneurs
  • Significance
  • Dodd points out that (1) members of Congress enter politics in a quest for personal power, (2) reelection, especially by large margins, can boost the internal power of members of Congress, and (3) personal power in Congress is often achieved through committee chairmanships.
  • A dominant, imperial presidency that ignores Congress causes members of Congress to temporarily subordinate their quest for personal power to strengthen Congress as an institution.

Topic Overview

  • Topic Overview
  • Following his electoral victory in October of 1774, Burke delivered to his constituents the following speech, which became a political classic.
  • His speech perfectly reflects the underlying philosophy of the framers of the Constitution that government should be deliberative and carried out in the national interest.

Reading

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Reading
    • Edmund Burke, Speech to the Electors of Bristol

Theme

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Theme
  • In this classic piece from 1774, Edmund Burke argues that the duty of elected representatives is to act on their best judgment, and not on the instructions of their constituents.
  • Burke argues that a deliberative body serves one national interest, and not the diverse and hostile interests of different localities and districts.

Theme

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Theme
  • According to Edmund Burke, the most important source for an elected official’s decision making is his own judgment and opinions.
  • Edmund Burke believed that there is one national interest.
  • According to Edmund Burke, Parliament should be a deliberative body.

Background and Reasoning

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Background and Reasoning
  • Burke was a member of the House of Commons in the 1760s.
  • He was elected as the representative to Parliament from the city of Bristol in 1774, after which he made this speech.
  • Burke argues that the representative’s judgment and enlightened conscience are a trust from Providence, and not derived from any set of constituents.

Background and Reasoning

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Background and Reasoning
  • Burke states that these faculties must not be sacrificed to the opinions of electors because “your representative owes to you the constituents, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
  • If government were a matter of will, Burke reasons, then a representative might be subservient to popular opinion.

Background and Reasoning

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Background and Reasoning
  • Burke states that government is deliberative and based on reason and judgment and that opinions and decisions of elected representatives must rule.
  • Burke acknowledged the seriousness with which the official must consider constituents’ views, but he rejects authoritative instructions and mandates.
  • He states that Parliament is a national body serving one national interest and not representatives of distinct, local, and hostile interests.

Significance

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Significance
  • Burke’s speech raises two significant issues.
  • The first is the obligation of an elected representative.
  • Instructions have periodically been debated as part of the American system, and some members of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 were under orders from their state governments that bound their decisions.

Significance

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Significance
  • More recently, recall elections have tried to bring elected officials closer to the will of their constituents by creating the probability that decisions counter to the majority’s will result in the loss of office.
  • Burke’s speech is the archetype for the argument that elected officials must be bound by their judgment more than by the public’s will.

Significance

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Significance
  • The second significant issue is the method of government and the interest it serves.
  • Burke argues that government is meant to be deliberative, a theory that informs the American republican system.
  • Congress, especially the Senate, is designed to be a deliberative body somewhat removed from the direct will of the people, which can be susceptible to passions and immediate concerns.

Significance

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Significance
  • Further, Burke argues that the purpose of government is to serve the national interest through these deliberations, more so than it is to serve the particular concerns of localities.
  • This is more problematic in the American system, which intentionally multiplies factions so that the clashing of many interests will result in what is called the national interest.

Reading

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection

Theme

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Theme
  • David Mayhew suggests that the activities of congressmen and the organization and procedures of Capitol Hill are primarily oriented toward the goal of reelection of incumbents.
  • He writes, “Whether they are safe or marginal, cautious or audacious, congressmen must constantly engage in activities related to reelection.”

Theme

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Theme
  • In this reading, Mayhew describes the activities of congressmen to optimize their chances for reelection.
  • Congressmen engage in advertising, credit claiming, and position-taking to maintain and increase their appeal to the voters of their districts.

A definition and an example of advertising

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • A definition and an example of advertising
  • Advertising is any effort to disseminate one’s name among constituents in such a fashion as to create a favorable image, but in messages having little or no issue content.
  • A successful congressman builds what amounts to a brand name, which may have a generalized electoral value for other politicians in the same family.

A definition and an example of advertising

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • A definition and an example of advertising
  • Advertising is carried out by members of the House through newsletters sent to constituents, opinion columns for newspapers, radio and television reports to constituents, and mail questionnaires.
  • The appearance by congressmen at social events in their constituencies is also a form of advertising.

A definition and examples of credit claiming

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • A definition and examples of credit claiming
  • Credit claiming is acting so as to generate a belief in a relevant political actor/voter (or actors) that one is personally responsible for causing the government, or some unit thereof, to do something that the actor (or actors) considers desirable.
  • Congressmen seek to claim credit for particularized benefits for constituents.
  • Pork-barrel projects and casework are examples of activities for which congressmen claim credit.

A definition and examples of credit claiming

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • A definition and examples of credit claiming
  • The underlying assumption of credit claiming is that constituents will attribute the benefits they receive to the hard work of their congressmen, which will make them more inclined to vote for incumbents.
  • The opportunities members of Congress have to engage in credit claiming is one reason they have an advantage over challengers at election time.

A definition and examples of position taking

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • A definition and examples of position taking
  • Position taking is the public enunciation of a judgmental statement on anything likely to be of interest to political actors (voters).
  • Position taking may be done through roll call voting, committee hearings, speeches before home groups, television appearances, letters, newsletters, press releases, ghostwritten books, Playboy articles, even interviews with political scientists.

A definition and examples of position taking

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • A definition and examples of position taking
  • Congressmen generate what amounts to petitions; whether or not to sign the 1956 Southern Manifesto defying school desegregation rulings was an important decision for southern members.
  • Outside the roll call process, the congressman is usually able to tailor his positions to suit his audiences.
  • A solid consensus in the constituency calls for ringing declarations.

A definition and examples of position taking

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • A definition and examples of position taking
  • The best position-taking strategy for most congressmen at most times is to be conservative by clinging to their own positions of the past where possible and to reach for new ones with great caution where necessary.
  • Mayhew concludes that while members of Congress constantly engage in advertising, credit claiming, and position taking, it is difficult to measure the effects of these activities upon voters.

A definition and examples of position taking

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • A definition and examples of position taking
  • Mayhew states that perhaps the most important consideration is that congressmen believe that activities such as advertising, credit claiming, and position taking are necessary and profitable in gaining votes.
  • Nothing is more important in Capitol Hill politics, writes Mayhew, than the shared conviction that election returns have proven a point.

Significance

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Significance
  • According to David Mayhew, members of Congress must engage in reelection activities whether or not they are from safe districts.
  • Activities members of Congress engage in to secure reelection include advertising, position taking, an credit claiming.
  • Congressional advertising activities are essentially focused upon congressmen disseminating their names among constituents.

Significance

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Significance
  • Credit claiming by congressmen is essentially focused upon claiming credit for channeling specific benefits to districts.
  • Generally the best strategy for position taking is to cling to positions taken in the past where possible and reach for new positions only with great caution.

Reading

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Reading
    • Richard F. Fenno, Jr., Home Style and Washington Career

Theme

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Theme
  • Richard Fenno declares that there are variables other than the goal of reelection that shape congressional behavior and organization.
  • In Congressmen in Committees (1973), Fenno described the incentives of members of Congress to be (1) reelection, (2) internal power and influence on Capitol Hill, and (3) good public policy.

Theme

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Theme
  • Fenno concluded that it is mostly the freshmen members and representatives of marginal districts with intense two-party competition that result in strong challenges to the incumbents who stress reelection.
  • Decrease of marginality and the development of strong constituency organizations by incumbents leave them relatively free to pursue internal power and status on Capitol Hill as well as public policy.

Theme

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Theme
  • Congressmen must pay close attention to their constituencies, but this is done through the development of an effective home style more than by activities on Capitol Hill.
  • The Washington careers of many members become separated from their constituency activities.

Constituency careers and Washington careers, according to Fenno

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Constituency careers and Washington careers, according to Fenno
  • Constituency careers are primarily made of the pursuit of the goal of reelection.
  • Washington careers are primarily made of the pursuit of the goals of influence in the House and the making of good public policy.
  • The intertwining of careers is an intertwining of member goals.

Strains between constituency careers and Washington careers

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Strains between constituency careers and Washington careers
  • At first the strains are minimized, because the freshmen members of the House have little if any opportunity to gain inside power or influence policy.
  • Freshmen can devote their time to developing their constituency base without feeling that they are missing important opportunities on Capitol Hill.

Strains between constituency careers and Washington careers

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Strains between constituency careers and Washington careers
  • As members seek power and influence, they may begin to experience some allocated strain between constituency and Washington demands.
  • Successful careers in Washington and successful careers in the district take time and energy.
  • Members may have to make choices because it may not be possible to allocate these resources to an optimal degree to both House and home.

Members reconcile their constituency careers and Washington careers.

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Members reconcile their constituency careers and Washington careers.
  • Members seek to reconcile the conflict between the demands of reelection with those of attaining power on Capitol Hill in a variety of ways.
  • They build powerful constituency organizations and develop effective constituency styles to free them while they are in Washington to pursue internal influence in the House.

Members reconcile their constituency careers and Washington careers.

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Members reconcile their constituency careers and Washington careers.
  • They may seek to merge their Washington and constituency careers by portraying themselves in their constituencies as powerful legislators.
  • However, this strategy does not work well because the powerful Washington legislator can actually get pretty far out of touch with his supportive constituents back home.

Members reconcile their constituency careers and Washington careers.

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Members reconcile their constituency careers and Washington careers.
  • Fenno concludes that congressmens’ home activities are more difficult and taxing than we have previously recognized.
  • Under the best of circumstances, the tension involved in maintaining constituency contact and achieving legislative competence is considerable.

Members reconcile their constituency careers and Washington careers.

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Members reconcile their constituency careers and Washington careers.
  • Members cannot be in two places at once, and the growth of a Washington career exacerbates the problem.
  • The demands in both places have grown recently because the legislative workload and the demand for legislative expertise are steadily increasing.
  • This is also true of the problem of maintaining meaningful contact with their several constituencies.

Significance

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Significance
  • A congressman’s home style and Washington career are often in conflict.
  • Members of Congress find that their power on Capitol Hill is not very important to reelection.
  • The congressman’s home activities are difficult and taxing for the members and his staff.

Reading

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Reading
    • Senator Evan Bayh, Why I’m Leaving the Senate

Theme

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Theme
  • Senator Evan Bayh writes that challenges of historic import threaten America’s future.
  • He states that action on the deficit, economy, energy, health care and much more is imperative, yet our legislative institutions fail to act.
  • Senator Evan Bayh writes that Congress must be reformed.

Why I’m Leaving the Senate

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Why I’m Leaving the Senate
  • Senator Evan Bayh writes that there are many causes for the dysfunction, such as strident partisanship, unyielding ideology, a corrosive system of campaign financing, gerrymandering of House districts, endless filibusters, holds on executive appointees in the Senate, dwindling social interaction between senators of opposing parties, and a caucus system that promotes party unity at the expense of bipartisan consensus.

Why I’m Leaving the Senate

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Why I’m Leaving the Senate
  • Today, members routinely campaign against each other, raise donations against each other, and force votes on trivial amendments written solely to provide fodder for the next negative attack ad.
  • It’s difficult to work with members actively plotting your demise.
  • Any improvement must begin by changing the personal chemistry among senators.

Why I’m Leaving the Senate

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Why I’m Leaving the Senate
  • I’m beginning my 12th year in the Senate, and only twice have all the senators gathered for something other than purely ceremonial occasions.
  • The first was during my initial week in office when President Bill Clinton had been impeached, and the Senate had to conduct his trial.
  • The second occasion was just days after Sept. 11, and senators gathered in the Senate dining room to discuss the American response.

Why I’m Leaving the Senate

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Why I’m Leaving the Senate
  • Congress should consider ways to lessen the impact of the Citizens United decision through legislation to enhance disclosure requirements, require corporate donors to appear in the political ads they finance, and prohibit government contractors or bailout beneficiaries from spending money on political campaigns.

Why I’m Leaving the Senate

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Why I’m Leaving the Senate
  • Congress and state legislators should also consider incentives, including public matching funds for smaller contributions, to expand democratic participation and increase the influence of small donors relative to corporations and other special interests.
  • In addition, the Senate should reform a practice increasingly abused by both parties, the filibuster.

Why I’m Leaving the Senate

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Why I’m Leaving the Senate
  • Today, the mere threat of a filibuster is enough to stop a vote; senators are rarely asked to pull all-nighters like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
  • For this reason, filibusters should require 35 senators to sign a public petition and make a commitment to continually debate an issue in reality, not just in theory.

Why I’m Leaving the Senate

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Why I’m Leaving the Senate
  • Filibusters should also be limited to no more than one for any piece of legislation.
  • Currently, the decision to begin debate on a bill can be filibustered, followed by another filibuster on each amendment, followed by yet another filibuster before a final vote.
  • This leads to multiple legislative delays and effectively grinds the Senate to a halt.

Why I’m Leaving the Senate

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Why I’m Leaving the Senate
  • The number of votes needed to overcome a filibuster should be reduced to 55 from 60.
  • Meeting America’s profound challenges and reforming Congress will not be easy.
  • Still, my optimism as I serve out the remainder of my final term in the Senate is undiminished.
  • With the right reforms, members of Congress can once again embody our best selves and our highest aspirations.

Why I’m Leaving the Senate

  • Congress and the Electoral Connection
  • Why I’m Leaving the Senate
  • Senator Evan Bayh writes in his final 11 months that “he advocate for the reforms that will help Congress function as it once did, so that our generation can do what Americans have always done: convey to our children, and our children’s children, an America that is stronger, more prosperous, more decent, and more just.”


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