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US Congress: Failure Causes and Improvements

Abstract

The US government is made of three arms, viz. executive, legislature, and the judiciary. Congress is the legislative arm, and it is mandated by the constitution to strike a balance between the government and the citizens. Today, there is an outcry from the public concerning the responsibilities of Congress. It does not fully represent the interests of the American citizens, as there have been many instances where policies are made against the interests of key stakeholders. This paper looks into the Congress as defined by the constitution, the reasons for its failure to satisfy the will of the citizens, and the possible amendments that, if made in the constitution, would help to change the Congress into a functional entity of representing the interests of the American citizens.

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Introduction

The US Congress is the legislative arm of the federal government. The Congress is bicameral, and thus it has two houses, viz. the Senate and the House of Representatives, whose members are directly voted by the citizens apart from some few vacancies filled by gubernatorial appointees. Legislations cannot be passed without the consent of the two chambers. The House of Representatives can initiate an impeachment motion, but the Senate has to decide on it by a two-thirds majority vote before a person is removed from office. Therefore, Congress is designed to streamline the activities of the government in the quest to address the well-being of American citizens (Herrington, 2010).

Possible Constitutional Amendments

The drafters of the US Constitution recognized the need to have the voice of Americans at the core of leadership and governance. Therefore, it was necessary to have a Congress that represents the citizens, coupled with ensuring that the ruling authorities uphold the people’s interests in the decision-making process. Americans have confidence that there cannot be a dictatorial federal government or judicial system because the Congress has the power to put the citizens first by ensuring that the rights and needs of American citizens are considered in policy and regulation processes.

Although Congress represents the voice of the American people in the federal government by providing checks and balances, it has failed to exercise its mandate in some instances. The greatest threat to Congress is the presidency due to its influence on congressional leadership, political influence, and individual interests. The American people have gradually been losing confidence in Congress, and that explains the reason why it is difficult for congress members to get re-elected.

There is a great need for some amendments to be made to strengthen Congress and enable it to represent the interests of the American people fully. Congress has recently been found to be unproductive where members are devoting less time to making and passing legislation, and thus Americans are concerned about this trend. According to Boehner and McConnell (2014), a statutory amendment to establish a five-day workweek needs to be made. This move will ensure that the legislatures have enough time to work in Congress and allow them time to share with their constituents. Also, Boehner and McConnell (2014) recommend the Congress members should work for three consecutive weeks, followed by a one-week recession every month as such a move would enhance a good working relationship among members.

Congress has forty-one standing committees with the House of Representatives having twenty-one (Froomkin, 2009). These committees serve a critical role in the establishment of house policies on particular subjects and the establishment of bills. There has been a crisis where the committees do not have enough time to do their work sufficiently as there are interruptions from other house proceedings. There is a statutory proposal to allow these committees to carry out their responsibilities in the morning hours, thus allowing them to conduct hearings and other duties in a shielded environment from unpredictable distractions.

Congress was founded on the basic principles of patriotism by the framers of the constitution, where members are to consider the interests of the citizens in the legislative processes (Will, 2008). However, this vision is waning slowly due to the filibustering that fills the house every time a motion is being presented. Filibustering is not prohibited as it helps to ensure that motions being presented in the house are aimed at improving the quality of lives of the citizens rather than meeting the interests of a few individuals. However, quality time is spent when presenting a motion due to filibustering, which at times does not allow healthy debates to take place. Therefore, a statutory amendment should be made to give room for healthy debates on motions and prohibit filibustering in Congress to ensure that bills are discussed within a short time after the presentation and voted if found not to satisfy some members (Askin, 2007).

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House rules committees often interfere with the work of house committees by altering bills to suit their interests. This behavior is unsettling as it raises the question of the real purpose of the house committee and the interest of the house rules committee when altering the bills. The amendment would help in ensuring that bills are voted for in their original form after leaving the house committees. House committees comprise experts, who are believed to look into bills thoroughly before they present them to the house rules committee. Thus their work should be respected by failing to alter the original work and letting it be voted present.

Also, it is noted that some problems arise whenever a bill passes both the House of Representatives and the Senate in two different versions. In most cases, this problem has shown up with the Conference Committee failing to reconcile the two versions into a single bill that can be sent to the president for signing. However, it is proposed that the House of Representatives should make motions to request a conference and appoint conferees who will not debate on the bill, but rather reconcile the two versions into a single bill. This move will eliminate the tug of war that has been evident in Congress since every chamber feels that it has a better version as compared to its counterparts, thus unwilling to compromise on making relevant changes.

Another problem that has affected the performance of Congress is that members can take part in several committees at the same time. Some members are overburdened by serving in many house committees, which results in the incapability to attend to the matters affecting their constituents and their performance in the committees that they serve. Also, in some instances, certain members serve in more than one committee due to individual interests, whereby they benefit from lobby groups and donors. Therefore, some members want to serve in as many committees as possible for the sake of financial gains, while jeopardizing the work of such committees to the American people. According to Birnbaum (2009), the case mentioned above is believed to be the reason behind the high cost of Congressional campaigns in the United States. Financial matters are sensitive for the American people, and Congress seems incapable of overseeing the expenditure of other arms of the government due to close political affiliation between members and the executive (Nelson, 2008). Therefore, a statute that would enhance the ability of Congress to oversee and control the expenditure of the federal government should be made in such a way that Congress would have the power that is beyond political pressure in financial-related matters (Hamilton, 2014).

Conclusion

The Congress is the voice of the American people, and thus it is an indispensable institution towards the realization of the American dream. Much has been achieved through Congress, and it deserves credibility. However, the Americans need Congress to represent them by ensuring the government functions in the best interests of the American citizens. Therefore, the lost credibility can be regained via statutory amendments, which will make the Congress a people’s voice in the government and detach it from the presidential influence that has negatively affected its performance and credibility in the past. A powerful Congress can restore the Americans’ confidence in the federal government. Therefore, the changes mentioned above need to be made in a bid to ensure that Congress regains its power and credibility to the Americans.

References

Askin, F. (2007). Congress’s Power to Compel. The Washington Post, p. 27.

Birnbaum, J. (2009). Cost of Congressional Campaigns Skyrockets. The Washington Post, p. 43.

Boehner, J., & McConnell, M. (2014). Now We Can Get Congress Going. The Wall Street Journal, p. 28.

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Froomkin, D. (2009). Playing by the Rules. The Washington Post, p. 33.

Hamilton, L. (2014). Fixing Congress. Web.

Herrington, S. (2010). Red State Anxiety and the Constitution. Huffington Post, p. 18.

Nelson, D. (2008). The ‘unitary executive’ question. Los Angeles Times, p. 41.

Will, G. (2008). Making Congress Moot. The Washington Post, p. 35.

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