Policy Making

            The most important function of congress is its legislative responsibility

                        Tree types of legislative actions taken by congress

Distributive – distribution of goods and/or services to the general


Highway construction

Health research

Defense appropriations

Redistributive – involves taking money from one segment of the population from taxes and giving it back to another through entitlements such as welfare

            Recipients must demonstrate need

            Congress determines criteria

Regulatory – sets limits on groups and individuals

            Clean Air and Water Act

            Requirements for industry

Protecting the environment

In a typical congressional session over 10,000 bills are offered and fewer than 10% are enacted

            How to stall legislation


            How to pass Legislation



                        Consensus building

                        Pork Barrel deals

Lobbyists and Interest Groups

Lobbyists and interest groups play an important role in electing senators and passing legislation

            Recently there have been calls for reform in this area



            The essence of a senator or representative revolves around its constituency

                        Types of Representation

Demographic – mirrors the desires of the people being represented

Symbolic – has more to do with the representative choosing whether to go with the constituency or what they feel is best

45% say that what is better for the country as a whole is more important

            65% say that when a conflict arose between what they felt was best and what the constituents want they would go with their own feelings

Representatives do whatever they can to try to get close to the people they represent



            Problems with congress

Gridlock – people feel that congress is inefficient because most bills never see the light of day

Congress does not reflect the views of its constituents – people feel that the representatives need to hear more from their constituents before voting on important issues

Representatives take advantage of their perks – abuses of the house checking system, the house post office, taking money from PACs and the double standard of laws between representatives and the public.  There have been ethics laws passed and there is now public disclosure of income and property holdings.

Representatives are too busy running for office – people feel that the representatives get to close to public interest groups and PACs, it is unconstitutional to pass a law on term limits

Congress either delegates too much responsibility of tries to take over - Should Congress let the president make most of the decisions or should it challenge the president’s authority



In 1994 when the Republican majority took over the senate they campaigned on a platform called the Contract with America, it promised the following things:

1.      A balanced budget amendment and line item veto

2.      A crime bill that funds police and prisons over social programs

3.      Real welfare reform

4.      Family reinforcement measures that strengthen parental rights in education and child support enforcement

5.      Family tax cuts

6.      Stronger national defense

7.      A rise in the Social Security earnings limit to stop penalizing working seniors

8.      Job creation and regulatory reform policies

9.      Common sense legal reforms to stop frivolous lawsuits

10.  A first-ever vote on term limits for members of congress

They succeed in:

            Bringing most things to a vote

The house reformed itself cutting down on committees and their employees

President Clinton passed a law that mandated representatives to follow the same laws as the public