New lawmakers’ rude awakening to the realities of Congress

Last month, the 117th Congress arrived in Washington with plenty of fresh faces and new ideas for governing. More than five dozen new members entered the House and Senate. Only a handful of them, such as Wyoming Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis, have previous experience in Congress.

These new-to-Capitol Hill officeholders made plenty of promises on the campaign trail, and they are eager to show voters that they can get things done. They want to write legislation, engage in oversight at hearings, and debate matters important to their constituents back home.

Unfortunately, their dreams of getting things done will soon be frustrated. Why? Obviously, the madness of Jan. 6 and the ensuing impeachment drama were intensely disruptive. No member of the House or Senate had planned to spend time dealing with traumatized staff, responding to constituents and colleagues who wanted to know what to do, and the crush of media requests.

There also is a new president, who wants Congress to pass a massive and controversial COVID-19 relief bill — pronto. And the Democratic leaders of both chambers have their own priorities, including H.R. 1, the nearly 800-page bill that would remake American elections and more. The Senate, for its part, will also need to review and confirm more than 300 individuals who will be nominated to Cabinet positions by President Biden.

But the bigger problem is that they came to Congress under a misapprehension: that they would be allowed and empowered to govern. That is not the way Congress works these days. The newly arrived legislator is quickly confronted with a few basic demands: raise money for reelection; obey party leadership; and don’t fraternize with members of the other party….(Read more)




Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC. My books: Congress Overwhelmed (2020) and… See

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Kevin R Kosar

Kevin R Kosar

Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC. My books: Congress Overwhelmed (2020) and… See

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