With the government shutdown in progress and the deadline to raise the debt ceiling approaching, many have turned to Congress to vent their frustrations. In recent years, Congress seems to have become increasingly partisan, constantly bickering over legislation and getting little accomplished. The Republicans abhor the Affordable Care Act, the Democrats cry foul every time spending cuts are proposed, and the nation is left to wonder what is going on with the greatest nation on earth.
That said, many have expressed their concerns to Congress, but have they ever stopped to think that this might be the way it is supposed to work? In fact, it is the way Congress was intended to work from day one.
Our founding fathers did not want the same government that the British had. They did not want a single hereditary monarch who had absolute power to rule. The founding fathers envisioned a government whose powers come from the consent of those governed. The founding fathers feared dictatorship and yearned for representation. And a government in line with these ideals required the separation of powers between the three branches and the dissolution of power throughout the Congress, including the House of Representatives and the Senate.
And so Congress today is the way it is because of the people who helped craft it.
Representatives in the House are chosen by the people of the district in which they serve. There are currently 435 representatives in the House. Districts are drawn by Congress, usually along party lines. With 435 different districts in the United States, difference of opinions are sure to arise, and they do. And because they serve only a portion of their state’s population, representatives are highly partisan as they have to appeal to the people of that one district whose views are more likely to be aligned.
On the other hand, Senate consists of 100 members, two from each state. They have to serve the people of the whole state, so they have to appeal more to the average citizen then members of the House do. This results in a Senate that is more moderate and a Senate that tends to discuss amongst one another and reach compromises.
Ultimately, the first priority of each member of Congress is to get elected and then reelected. They do this by appealing to their constituents. Both the House and the Senate attempt to acquire certain projects or funding for their state or district, in turn increasing their own visibility and viability to their members and getting reelected. This is the pork spending that gets derided so readily by the media. These are the Ted Cruzes who stand and speak for hours, maybe even to the detriment of the nation as a whole. This is the bickering that tires us.
All this makes Congress slow at passing legislation. Because members of Congress are elected from a diverse population holding diverse views, each house has to negotiate amongst each other to pass a bill. They then have to sell that bill to the other house and have those members approve it as well. Usually, this is not done without a good deal of pork going into each bill, acting as the grease that helps the machine’s gears turn. Furthermore, the founding fathers did not want Congress to act on passion. So the legislation that passes takes a long time to craft and comes out of the Congress with many attachments and, at times, a muffled messaged.
And so today, Congress debates whether to raise the debt ceiling. Most will tell you that Congress is broken. I am telling you that it is working precisely how the founding fathers envisioned it.
Xhaxhollari is a member of the class of 2014.