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Congress and The Quest for Power
Transcript of Congress and The Quest for Power
Lawrence C. Dodd
The Underlying Motive: Personal Power
personal salvation through good works
build up or rule the world
Most basic concept of Congress: Reelection
Continuous holding of office allows for influence over the political agenda
Reelection by large margins creates an "aura" of legitimacy
guaranteed at a certain point
Congressional Career- Stage 1
Congressional- Career Stage 2
-Shoring up the electoral base through casework and service relevant to a district's needs
-Building a relationship with constituents
-Building up favor in Congress by serving on housekeeping committees
-As members of Congress become more confident of their ability to continue winning reelection, they begin searching for true power
-Members of Congress can belong to committees and within them possibly have dominant power influencing legislation, become "legislators."
-Motivation to stay in Congress long enough to obtain subcommittee or committee chair
-Decentralized Congress committee system allows Congress members to develop power, at least in a small realm, only few people move to next congressional career stage
Congressional Committee Structure
-Reflects naturally the various dimensions that characterize the making of public policy
-Authorization, appropriations, revenue, housekeeping, internal regulation, service, policy, and "power" committees
-B/c an essential type of legislation is associated w/ each type of committee, members find that service on any committee can quench some power drive
Congressional Career- Stage 3
-Service on a power committee- Rules, Ways and Means, or Finance, Appropriations, and in the Senate, Foreign Relations
Congressional Career Stage 4
-Service in party leadership as a floor leader or Speaker
-Still power will rest primarily in the committee leaders rather than the party
-This is the least likely place for members of Congress to pursue
Consequence of Dispersed Power
-Decentralized Congress creates institutional weakness- Congress can't carry out its duties enumerated by the Constitution
-No centralized leadership
-Weak fiscal coordination
-Weak accountability for policy
-Insulation of congressional decision making from popular desires
-Failure to oversee the administration
Dodd's Final Remarks
-"The longer committee government operates, the more unhappy people become with the inability of Congress to make national policy..."
-Leads to more reliance on executive branch-Obama!!
-Congress and President have a "cyclical pattern"