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Killing the Confusion

Throughout my study of government this year, I have been striving to find out how the United States’ government functions.  Having only briefly learned about the government in the years past, I began my studies quite confused on the way our government works.  In government class, during our study of Congress, we deciphered a certain paper written by Woodrow Wilson.  “Congressional Government: A Study in American Politics” by Woodrow Wilson,  gave me an inside look at the Congress and helped me with the confusion I had.

When reading Wilson’s paper I realized I was not the only one who had problems understanding our government and that the Congress is very complex and not easily apprehended.  As Wilson says, “Congress is hard to see satisfactorily and appreciatively at a single view and from a single stand-point. Its complicated forms and diversified structure confuse the vision, and conceal the system which underlies its composition. It is too complex to be understood without an effort, without a careful and systematic process of analysis. Consequently, very few people do understand it, and its doors are practically shut against the comprehension of the public at large” (Wilson 1).  Now with the confusion of Congress established, Wilson begins to explain the make up of Congress.  While reading, I came across something I have never heard of before, the Standing Committees.  Throughout out the rest of his paper, Wilson recognizes Standing Committees of the House as being extremely powerful in Congress saying, “The privileges of the Standing Committees are the beginning and the end of the rules” (Wilson 2).  If Standing Committees are so powerful than why haven’t I ever heard of them?  What is their role in the House in which gives them so much control?  With these questions in mind, a continued looking into Wilson’s paper.

When a bill is constructed, it is then sent to the committee that has to do with the subject the bill handles.  For example, a bill concerning the nation’s budget would be sent to the Budget Committee.  Currently, there are twenty-two committees in the House, making it confusing when trying to findout where to send each bill. When a committee receives the bill, the committee chairman, the head of the committee, can decide the fate of that bill. This is where the committees get their power.  The committee chairmen have the ability to kill any bill as well as leave the billaside to not be discussed by the committee, which will also kill the bill.  Many bills are left undiscussed and the vast majority of bills never make it out of the committees.  As Wilson says, “The fate of bills committed is generally not uncertain. As a rule, a bill committed is a bill doomed” (Wilson 3).  Also, the committee chairmen can decide which bills they think have precedence of others, which I found to be astonishing.  When it comes down to it, one man has the ability to decide what bills could be enforced to the whole United States and yet this man is not the President.  All of this shows the immense authoritative power that the Standing Committees have.

After finishing Wilson’s paper, I could not believe that I had never heard of Standing Committees.  They are such a pivotal part of our government yet I had no knowledge of them.  Wilson explains the lack of knowledge about committees saying, “Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition,   whilst Congress in its committee-rooms is Congress at work” (Wilson 4).  This means that when Congress is in session, it is just for show.  However, the real work in Congress is done outside the public’s view in the committee rooms.  Seeking more  information about committees I sought out another source.  After reading this web page, which I encourage you do, Wilson’s   thoughts were confirmed and my under lying questions about committees were answered.

During my congressional studies, I learned how Congress operates and its fundamental make up in the Constitution.  However, I am still astounded that so many citizens do not know of the Standing Committees that hold so much power in our government.  I believe it is important and within our civic duties that we learn how our government works.  By my study of Congress I was enlightened on a very important aspect of government that I had no knowledge of.  In conclusion, I encourage any reader to leave comments as well as look at my annotated copy of Wilson’s paper for more information.

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  1. lmcquary5
    May 2, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Looks good. You have all the things he just talked about and its an interesting post.

  2. May 2, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    I like how your annotations of Wilson’s document are provided in the concluding paragraph. Everything you had to say was very interesting and I enjoyed reading your post.

  3. May 10, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Nicely done, Andrew!

    I’m curious about your “other source” (ushistory.org) – why did you pick it? What stands out within the site?? Maybe consider working to intergrate your link (and the salient details within it) more fully into the text of your essay…

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