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Essay/Term paper: Congressmen and their influences

Essay, term paper, research paper:  History Essays

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Congressmen and Their Influences

The notion that a Congressman ran for office for unselfish goals and went away
to Washington to serve his country and represent his neighbors seems quaint and
luaghable compared to the way that we currently regard members of congress.
Recent views have suggested that most people felt that while the institution on
the whole was corrupt, but that their representative was a good person and
servant of the electorate. More and more each member is scrutinized and judged
harsher by their constituencies, the media, their own party and the numerous
interest groups and cuacuses that make it possible for them to act as Senators
and Representatives. The Congress and President work together through their own
institutions in the common goal of running the worlds most powerful nation. The
legilative powers were divided this way to ensure that all new laws would be
debated and decided not by a few but through a heirarchy that gives every
citizen a part to play in our collective decision making.

Each of the individuals in the House has an equitable voting relationship with
the others, 1=1=1, when it come to passing legislation, but in the earlier
phases of formulating policy some relationships are dominant over others. The
only ones that would be lower than a freshman Democrat in the 105th Congress
from a rural, low industry district are probably those that represent our
protectorates Guam, Puerto Rico, etc. Many levels within the parties and the
institution afford some members leadership roles and positions that they can use
to sway the other members. The Whips, Majority and Minority leaders and the
Speaker of the House are looking for party cohesion and also bi-partisan support
for a bill. Coalitions are forged or broken depending on the issue at hand.
Individual committee positions are another point were some are more powerful
than others. The committees are major superintendents of some agencies and
members not on that particular committee may be ignored or relegated to other
tasks while the major decisions are being made. Since much of policy direction
is dominated by the two party system they are able to use the majority selected
rules and procedures of the House to their advantage. In the more collegial and
congenial Senate power is more diffused and shared between the members and
minority rights are protected.

In the parties the leaders are able to use their personalities and power to
influence the agenda that is agreed upon. The way the House is run leaves a
great deal of discretion to the leaders of the parties and committee members
regarding which specific measures will be debated and concentrated on. The
comeupance of Newt has shown how a member of the House can predominate a
political agenda th4at has broad support. The boisterous Newt has brought to the
House a new sense of power and prestige for the Republican party and also to the
office of Speaker of the House. Newt has lost some of his political steam in the
midst of ethics investigations and the friction caused by his abrasive
personality. Starting the 104th congress as a revolutionary leader bent on a
smaller more efficient government his power has been diminished as his corps of
freshmen have become increasingly independent. The democrats chipped away at him
and his support by casting a shadow over each of the Republicans in the house as
cronies of Newt. During the recent campaigns Newt tried to lay low except for in
his home district as thousands of ads linked the Republicans to Newt. As he has
down in the last congress he will continue to be a force in the shaping and
direction of any new policies.

Since the retirement from the Senate of Bob Dole, Trent Lott has taken over
leadership duties for the Republican party in the Senate and has personally
become more prominent as a Republican player while Newt has been forced to
defend his policy agenda and his personal conduct from all sides. As a powerful
personality like Gingrich, Lott will have a great influence. Almost every piece
of legislation is going to have hiss blessing or input within it. Lott has
brought to the position experience that makes as a good requisite foe the job.
He has served in the House as party whip and made many improvements in the
position that he later used as a whip in the Senate. These changes streamlined
many operations that made party coordination and cohesion easier. Now as Senate
Majority Leader he is in a great position to influence the President and to
persuade the public to help advance his parties goals.

The president is also a major player in shaping what comes out of congress. He
is able to use various tactics that blur party lines in the rhetorical war of
words. Congress and the President work together daily, but not in harmony. Many
of their efforts are contradictory because they represent different
constituencies and are faced with different pressures. Party lines are not the
only ones that dived when it come to policy making. Carter and Clinton both saw
the difficulty incurred, even in unified government, to formulate policy. These
separation of powers forces the burden of policy making to be done even though
many competing individuals fight for their agendas to be fulfilled. Sometimes
Presidential priorities and congressional desires coincide to create a win-win
situation. Reagan was able to do it for a while when his agenda of cutting taxes
and increasing defense played directly into the hands of a Democratic congress
that was more than happy to bring home a slice of pork to their districts and
states. Some policies were reactive to Reagans desires for a stronger military
and other benefits for big business. The distributive policies passed out many
perks that were divided among the members homes and many regulatory policies
were written by congress to benefit large corporations.

Most inherently in our political system is a set of divergent forces that cause
the two branches to check and conflict with each other and react to major
concerns of the electorate. When the President proposes any policy he is acting
as a legislator for the entire country. He can make public appeals for support
from the masses to pressure their representative to support an idea. One of his
greatest powers to shape what comes out of congress is his power to veto. Even
the threat of such action is sometime enough to influence policy while it is
still being formulated. The President must constantly be aware of the power
shifts and public perceptions that people have between these two branches of
government. It can shift quickly producing conflict and also compromise. It may
produce a better bargaining relationship where the two try to accommodate each
others agenda's where they overlap.

The President is also able to influence congress down to the individual members
by lobbying them directly for their support or by giving or withdrawing
patronage services. Members of the same party as the President can greatly
benefit from a close relationship and ride on their coattails come election time
or be diparaged for his ties to to the executive branch. Natural allegiances
between the President and members of congress, such as party, geographic
concerns and economic priorities help greatly to advance a President's goals.
These members may be an advocate all the way to the floor and within the
committees. Other informal ties help to influence the Executive-Legilative
relationship as they work together. For the first two years of Clinton's term,
he worked with a unified government to pass many of his ideas that he gained
support for through public appeals. Many of the members who supported the
President were passed over for re-election for the sole reason of supporting him.
Many were perceived to be acting as trustees and were ousted in favor of
Republicans who promised to be more like delegates of their constituency.
Clinton was able to gain the upper hand in public support after the governmental
shutdowns were judged to be the fault of a radical congress that tried to pass
an unacceptable budget proposal into law.

Along side of the competing forces between the legislature and President are the
organized interest groups whose sole purpose is to promote their own agendas.
They are all fighting each other for the lawmakers' attention to benefit
themselves and their members. Our general desire to associate with like minded
people has exploded by the need to make the views and inputs of each of these
groups known on a wide scale. These groups are able to spread their influence to
all levels of government. They are able to give committees support on
initiatives, advice about a problem, and information that may or may not be
biased to help their cause. Representatives that are sympathetic to the groups
cause can also secure votes and monies for their campaigns for office.

Different interest groups have different levels of power and influence depending
on their organization and strength. The two main ingredients for a successful
interest group are money and personnel. They also need a well organized flow of
information to the members that they need to influence and also to their own
members that may be called on to protest a program or donate to a candidate. The
personnel are there to lobby for their interests everywhere the lawmaker turns.
In the past they may have been offering sweetheart deals for proposed
legislation to be passed, but now with our closer scrutiny of lawmakers they
must be more aware of how there voting patterns will be judged when compared to
who has given them money. The lobbyist is not looking so blatantly to buy a
legislator but they have never been shy about letting them know how they feel
about what is done for or against them to forward their goals. This can be done
by attending committee meetings to asses tendencies of a Rep and to gather
information to give to a legislative proponent. The lobbying does not stop in
the Capitol but goes on at social functions such as fund raisers and vacation
retreats as favors are passed for political promises. Lobbying can reach the
grassroots level when a group gives cues to constituents that in turn press on
their representative for action. Some of the members of these groups have gotten
there positions by going through he revolving door of public service and private
influence. This happens when a person has worked for an agency that implements
policy or for a political insider, then they take their knowledge, expertise and
political contacts and use them to work for the benefit of the group that want
to have influence over policy making.

An organized interest groups most powerful weapon is its' money. Money makes
their influence possible because if they had none, they would never have been
able to reach an influential audience at all.. Groups also use money to support


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