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What’s wrong with congress?
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What’s wrong with congress?

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  • 1. What’s Wrong with Congress?
  • 2. Gerrymandering• Gerrymandering is a form of redistricting in which electoral districts boundaries aredeliberately modified for electoral purposes, thereby producing a contorted or unusualshape.• negative: when used to allege that a party is gaining disproportionate power – packingdistricts with hardcore support form one party, creating wasted votes.• positive: producing a proportion of constituencies with an African-American or otherminority in the majority (these are then called "minority-majority districts").
  • 3. Social Representation• Although there has been a significant increase since the 1980s, women only make up 16% of both houses of Congress.• Representatives from ethnic minority backgrounds make up less than 7% (though more in House than Senate due to redistricting)• Many come from wealthy backgrounds with a large proportion of Senators being former lawyers, and the average age of a Senator is 60 years old.
  • 4. Pork barrel projects• Members of Congress often earmark bills, loading them with amendments in order to please the ‘folks back home’. Alaska’s ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ being a chief example.
  • 5. Committee Chairs• Once overly powerful, with many past their ‘sell by date’, chairs are now subject to term limits of 6 years. This has led to:• Loss of expertise• Intra-party squabbles• Musical chairs• Presidential – chair relationships are more fluid.
  • 6. Ethical Problems Media focus on scandals rather than achievements:• James Traficant jailed for bribery• Blagojevich expelled for trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat and• Gary Condit suspected of unsolved murder. This does much to increase scepticism associated with public service in US politics.
  • 7. Ineffective oversight of the executive branch• Academics suggest that it is only when the executive and legislature are controlled by different parties that scrutiny is truly effective. If not, Congress is in danger of turning from a watchdog into a lapdog.• But even under divided government oversight often looks more like personal attacks and vindictiveness (Clinton impeachment and the Starr report) than effective scrutiny of the executive and nominations
  • 8. Abuse of the filibuster• In 6 years between 1995-2001 Clinton only got around 73% of his judicial nominations confirmed.• For the first time (in 2003) the minority party in the Senate used the filibuster against nominees that had already gained a recommendatory ‘yes’ vote from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Bush said this was ‘an abdication of constitutional responsibility’.

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