David Grants article Top 9 Reasons Congress is Broken





David Grant’s article “Top 9 Reasons Congress is Broken” outlines a number of reasons why Congress is not just ineffective, passing a paltry 106 bills compared to the Congress of 1947-1948 which had passed 906 bills, but also why it is so poorly viewed by the public, achieving an approval rating of 10percent. According to the author, a gathering of scholars at the Woodrow Wilson International Center came up with a number of valid reasons for the level of dysfunction crippling the functioning of Congress. These reasons varied from insufficient presidential leadership and a lack of institutional knowledge to the Congress being back to the future by following a historical trend, all in all the author argues the current state of events cannot be allowed to play out.

According to Grant, one of the key reasons behind Congress’ failures thus far, is the lack of sufficient leadership from the presidency. Giving the example of President Clinton, the author argues that the president must know how to “work the system” in order for Congress to work effectively; for instance, the President should be able to motivate Congress to look beyond partisan interests. Secondly, Grant argues that in concurrence with the views of Thomas Mann in the Washington Post, the newcomer Republicans are at fault, as they have brought with them ideological extremes and are scornful of compromise, this has made it difficult for Congress to work in effectively. Perhaps also related to this, is the third reason: which is that members of Congress are less institutionally knowledgeable, and as a result find it difficult to be effective in deciding between policy alternatives.

Another key reason provided by Grant, is the increasing control that bmoney is having in ppolitics, as a result, members of Congress are actually forced to spend more time fundraising than is ideal, resulting in less time for Congressional functions. These changes have according to the author also spilled into the media industry, which has become significantly more vigilant, making deal cutting quite difficult, further hampering functioning of Congress. The sixth reason provided by Grant, is that of what the author refers to as the “Senate filibuster” a piece of legislation that allows a single senator to halt legislation that does not have sufficient votes (60) to overrule their disapproval. The provision has over the last two Congressional terms been abused further choking Congress’ ability to carry out its functions. Some of the other reasons provided are the electorate’s tendency to elect hardliners, the advent of strong interest groups that have usurped roles previously played by political parties and finally the advent of a partisan Congress interested in putting the interests of their parties above institutional effectiveness.

The author’s argument for Congress increasingly putting other interests above institutional effectiveness is in my opinion the most significant reason for the dysfunction currently being witnessed. This can however be intertwined with the initial reason; a lack of leadership. There is no doubt that a strong president capable of setting the agenda of Congress that cuts across partisan interests, would result in a more functional Congress, not to mention their ability to lobby a majority support for their bills, leading to greater functionality. These arguments by the author, are definitely the strongest, as they explain the shift in Congressional culture, as well as the greater Congressional functionality usually witnessed under specific presidents compared to others. I therefore agree with a majority of the reasons provided, but particularly feel that these two stand out and perhaps even encompass a number of the other reasons provided.