The urgent 21st century upgrades Congress needs to do its job
An organization can only do as much as its capacity permits. Demands on Congress have been escalating for 40 years. The number of voters has gone up 45 percent since 1980, leaving the average member of the House of Representatives with 760,000 constituents to serve. The amount of federal spending recently hit $6.5 trillion dollars, and we expect Congress to oversee how all of those dollars are spent. Interest groups have proliferated, all of whom knock on Congress’s door and shower it with communications demanding attention.
Is Congress Overwhelmed?
In short, yes, institutionally it is not built to handle the demands put upon it Diagnoses of the troubles of Congress usually focus on the three P’s: people, parties, and polarization. Tim LaPira, Lee Drutman, and I add an additional framework: congressional capacity. In short, we say look at the institution itself: is it built to meet the demands placed upon it by the public and the U.S. Constitution? Are it slegislators incentivized to do the work expected? Doies it have the staff it needs? How about its internal work dtsructures and work processes — are they aligned with Congress’s duties?
Delegates to the House of Representatives: Who Are They and What Do They Do?
We’re all familiar with representatives in the House of Representatives. But did you know there also are delegates and a resident commissioner? So, who are these individuals, and how are they similar and different from representatives? To find out, listen into my chat with Elliott Mamet. He is a Postdoctoral Research Associate and Lecturer at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. Previously, he served as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow. Elliot holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Duke University. Also important to note is that Dr. Mamet spent time working in the office of Washington, D.C. delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton.
How Is Congress Involved in Foreign Policy?
How is Congress involved in foreign policy? That is a topic of a recent episode of the Understanding Congress Podcast. My guest was Jordan Tama, a Provost Associate Professor at American University’s School of International Service. He is the author or editor of five books on foreign policy. They are: Polarization and US Foreign Policy: When Politics Crosses the Water’s Edge, co-edited with Gordon M. Friedrichs (Palgrave Macmillan, Forthcoming)
Can the House Freedom Caucus Revive the “People’s House”?
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the Speaker in waiting, reportedly has promised to shift some power over policymaking back to committees. This is good to hear. The history of the House of Representatives over the past 50 years is a story of power flowing upward to the Speaker. As Don Wolfensberger…
Panel discussion on the Electoral Count Act and election reform generally
The Cato Institute’s Sphere Initiative invited me to join a Zoom panel discussion on November 1, 2022. It was fun — -the audience was civics and social studies teachers. You may watch the video at https://www.cato.org/sphere/election-reform-midterm-election.
How Did James Madison Think About Congressional Elections? A Q&A with Jay Cost
The significance of James Madison’s contributions to creating our representative democracy cannot be overstated. He saw the troubles of the first union as a member of the Congress of the Confederation. He was a major player at the Constitutional Convention, and wrote the Federalist Papers to get the new federal charter ratified. Subsequently, Madison helped get the new government up and running by serving in the House of Representatives in the First and Second Congresses. Later, he twice was elected president.