Home > A3, Learning > Congress: Understanding the Process

Congress: Understanding the Process

In Government class this trimester we examined the U.S. Congress, a topic I find interesting because it is the field I knew the least about when we started this unit. News and information about Congress do not draw much media attention, making it difficult for me to have a basis of knowledge coming into this unit. I felt this unit was especially important because I felt like it was my responsibility as a United States citizen to learn about the foundations of Congress.

The first subunit within the unit of congress was representation. Here, various styles of congressional representation were presented. They include: The Delegate Model of Representation, which is the perspective that the legislator should work to recognize the will of the people and act accordingly. I think that this is the worst way for congress to represent the people. Although the voters are responsible for putting the delegate in office, sometimes the public’s opinion cannot or is just wrong to pursue. The delegate is the political expert and he/she should be able to blend in their opinion in with the public’s opinion. The Trustee Model of Representation, which is the perspective that the legislators should listen to the needs of the people, but ultimately act in relationship to what is best for the nation. I think this style of representation is wrong because sometimes what is best for the nation can hurt the people. A balance needs to be found between helping the people and the nation rather than just acting in blindly in one direction. This Politico Model of Representation, which is the perspective that legislators should feel free to follow their own judgment on matters where the public remains silent. This viewpoint is basically the opposite of the Delegate Model of Representation. I think that it’s obviously wrong to completely disregard what the public’s stances are on policies and I think democracy has a way of getting rid of those types of candidates. The Conscience Model of Representation, which is the perspective that legislators should follow the will of the people unless they truly believe it is wrong to do so. Here is the best model of representation, in my opinion. In this model, there is a balance between the people’s views and the legislator’s views. Lastly, there is Symbolic Representation, which is legislators speaking on the behalf of groups they belong to, including their demographic group. I think it is important for people to speak out for groups they belong to. Though I don’t think this is the best model, being aware of the feelings and positions of other groups is vital to keeping peace within America.

The third subunit within the unit of congress was committees. Since the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 was passed, every piece of legislation introduced for consideration in Congress must first be referred to a committee. Meaning that committees hold the true power within the U.S. Congress. In order to understand the roles of committees in congress, the class analyzed Woodrow Wilson’s “Congressional Government.” From this excerpt I learned that the true leaders of congress are those who are the chairmen of the principal standing committees. This is a problem because as Wilson states, “It is this multiplicity of leaders… [that] makes the organization of the House too complex to afford uninformed people and unskilled observers any easy clue to its methods of rule.” The problem is that the number of the heads of committees is too big for American citizens to keep up with. If there was a distinct and conspicuous figure in congress, people might have an easier time following the course of legislation without any confusion. Also, Wilson adds that, “Each Committee goes its own way at its own pace.” Though the committee method of leadership in legislature is organized it is disconnected and unsystematic. The key to progress is unification. It is sad to see “thousands of bills expire with the expiration of each Congress, not having been rejected, but having been simply neglected.” I completely agree with Wilson and think the committee leadership mechanism of congress should change. I know every bill cannot be looked at, but at least an attempt should be made to reshape the system.

Participating in this unit not only advanced my learning, but also made me feel stronger in the sense that I was fulfilling my duty as a citizen of the United States. Becoming knowledgeable of the democratic system is not only important for academic reasons, but for personal reasons too. In the near future, my classmates and I will actually BE apart of this system and hold the responsibility to vote. With the guidance from this course, I have gained a greater understanding of the process of government that will allow me to be a better citizen in the 21st Century.

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  1. joshtgov
    May 1, 2012 at 9:59 am

    The paragraph including the definitions of each model of representation helped create a clear basis for the following paragraph including the excerpt from Woodrow Willson’s “Congressional Government.” I think further analysis is required of what sub-committees in congress do and what processes are required in order to change legislation.

  2. May 5, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Well done… there’s plenty to think about and react to here.

    For one, most analysts would suggest that the Politico model is a compromise that includes elements of both the delegate model and trustee model of representation – politicos work to balance the needs and desires of their constituents with their own sense of what’s best for the country…

    … I’m curious about where your thinking goes regarding ideas to “reshape the system” of Congress – what are the absolute essentials that must be part of reform efforts?

    Our country’s future will be in good hands because you take your rsponsibilities as a citizen seriously!

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