A. The Functions of Congress
a. Individuals tend to hold a low approval rating for Congress as a whole but hold a much greater satisfaction for individual members
i. Members of Congress spend time & effort serving their constituents, if the federal government makes a mistake then the members of Congress attempt to resolve the issue for their constituents →
1. They spend considerable time and effort developing what is called a “homestyle” to gain the trust and appreciation of their constituents through service, local appearances, and the creation of local offices
2. However Congress was created to benefit the nation as a whole, those who work to create a “hillstyle” refers to their work on legislation and in party leadership to create laws and policies for the nation as a whole. ii. The founders believed that the bulk of government power should be given to the legislative branch because this branch was closest to the people. – Article I deals with the powers of Congress iii. Bicameralism
1. The bicameralism of Congress was part of the Connecticut Compromise, which tried to balance the large-state population advantage.
2. The two chamber component reflects the social bias of the founders, they wished to balance the interests and numerical superiority of common citizens with the elite → the House being elected by the less affluent group and the Senate being elected by the elite
a. Reinforced in length of tenure: Members of the House serve for 2 years vs. Members of the Senate serve for 6 years (President for 4 years) iv. Bicameral Structure was established so that Congress could carry out several functions: lawmaking, representation, service to constituents, oversight, public education, and conflict resolution.
b. The Lawmaking Function
i. Lawmaking: the process of establishing the legal rules that govern society ii. A majority of bills originate in the executive branch, others are traceable to interest groups and political party organizations iii. Through the process of compromise and logrolling (offering to support a fellow member’s bill in exchange for that member’s promise to support your bill in the future) as well as debate and discussion backers of legislation attempt to fashion a winning coalition to create policies for the nation.
c. The Representation Function
i. Representation includes both representing the desires and demands of the constituents in the member’s home district or state and representing larger national interests. (which often may cause conflict) ii. The Trustee View of Representation
1. Legislators should act as trustees (act in accordance to their conscience and the broad interests of society, i.e. vote against the narrow interests of society) iii. The Instructed-Delegate View of Representation
1. Should behave as instructed-delegates (acts as an agent of those who voted for him or her and votes in accordance with his or her constituents regardless of personal beliefs) iv. Typically delegates maintain the “politico” style which is a combination of the two
d. Service to Constituents
i. Members of Congress are expected to act as brokers between private citizens and the faceless federal government → takes the form of casework (personal work for constituents by members of Congress). – reflected in the candidates choice about their hillstyle vs. homestyle ii. Legislators and many analysts of congressional behavior regard this ombudsperson (person who hears and investigates complaints by private individuals against public officials or agencies) role as an activity that strongly benefits the members of Congress.
e. The Oversight Function
i. Oversight of the bureaucracy is essential if the decisions made by Congress are to have any force. Oversight is the process by which Congress follows up on the laws it has enacted to ensure that they are being enforced and administered in the way Congress intended.
1. Done by holding committee hearings