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Chapter 10 Summary Review
Congress has quite a bit more constitutionally bestowed power than either the presidency or the courts. Enumerated congressional powers are supplemented by vast implicit powers stemming from the elastic clause
Composition of Congress
Congress is composed of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Senators serve longer terms and have larger constituencies than do members of the House, largely in an attempt to make Representatives responsive to local interests. Senators, on the other hand, are to be responsive to national interests.
American's Poor Perception of Congress
- First, media coverage (particularly television coverage) portrays Congress in an increasingly negative light. Coverage of policy stories has declined, while stories of Congressional scandal have increased dramatically.
- Second, Congress was designed to process legislation slowly and deliberately. The inherent conflict between local and national interests requires members of Congress to balance their responsiveness to local interests with their responsibilities to the larger national interest.
- Achieving this balance requires compromise. The American public has a hard time appreciating the difficulties in reconciling competing interests, especially when that reconciliation takes time. Compromise is popularly portrayed as partisanship and gridlock
- “Does my member of Congress look like me?”
- Descriptive representation typically creates greater trust in the political system for various demographic groups. This trust is generated when members of traditionally underrepresented groups see government officials who look like them or have the same background as they do.
- “Does my member of Congress reflect my interests?”
- There are three routes a legislator can take in becoming substantively representative of their constituents: they can go the way of the trustee, the delegate, or the politico.
- Trustees aim to be responsible leaders, acting however they think best, even if their actions are unpopular with some members of the constituency.
- Delegates, conversely, do what their constituents wants, even if the delegate believes their actions run counter to their district’s best interests.
- The politico balances responsiveness and responsibility. These members of Congress are responsive on some issues and take responsibility for others.