Making the Congress Work

Making the Congress Work










Table of Contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Problem Solution and Discussion
  4. Conclusion



When bombarded with many hard to solve problems, it is a natural human tendency to breakdown. It is apparent that the US Congress system is broken. The signs are there to be seen: widespread dissatisfaction by the citizens, massive debts, and unfunded liabilities. Fixing this system involves applying complex initiatives. The causes are obscure and deep-rooted. In this regard, the constitution and certain statues are turned to as a means of guidance to provide the much-needed solutions. This essay has endeavored to perform an analysis of the various problems affecting the Congress and initiate the proposed statutory and constitutional changes. Primarily, these changes are based on the incentive of alleviating the problems affecting Congress.
Making the Congress Work


Primarily, the Congress is a form of an institution that guards the freedom of America and represents democracy. It is a representative governmental body where the nation’s myriad currents meet and address fundamental issues. Without this body, there would be turmoil in America. This body works by addressing matters such as the president’s powers, guarantees freedom, and ensures issues are attended to through deliberate debate. However, the current state of the Congress is dwindling. Some of the problems facing the Congress have been accumulating over the years. Relevant authorities such as the government have allowed some of these problems to spiral out of control (Annenberg Public Policy Center, 2006). In such situations, the Congress often shirks its constitutional responsibilities and seems incapable of attending to its duties. In this regard, applying certain statutory and constitution changes would ensure that these problems are alleviated and the Congress is functioning as expected.

Problem and Solution Discussion

            One statutory task bestowed upon the Congress involves deciding the amount of money the government should spend and take in. However, since 1952, the Congress has always delayed in submitted spending bills apart from four notable occasions. In the last fourteen years, the submission of these bills has been four months late on average (Bernstein and Agel, 2012). This consequence of this action is an inefficient and wasteful government. When the Congress fails to submit spending bills in time, it normally relies on ‘continuing resolution’ to provide temporary spending measures. These resolutions provide federal agencies with funds similar to the money spent the previous year.

The problem in this case is that the Congress spends before it lays out a budget. Additionally, Congress’ stop-and-go method of budgeting creates problems for government agencies as well as the citizens who depend on it. For example, the failure of Congress to pass a timely spending bill in 2011 led to State Department laying off staff in Iraq while at the same time struggling to manage civilian control in Iraq. Additionally, these delays caused the Aviation Administration to cancel the employment of new air traffic controllers.

Clearly, the Congress is unable to address its statutory duty of submitting spending and budgeting bills on time. Therefore, according to the same statute that confers to it such powers, it should be allocated funds on time (Brady and McCubbins, 2012). According to the US constitution, all governmental fiscal years start on October 1. Hence, if the Congressional spending process is not complete by this date, then release of funds should cease the same day. These funds should not be released prior to the completion of the spending bill by the Congress.

The other problem surrounding the issue of finance in the US that current balance sheets are arousing suspicion regarding their credibility. When members of the Congress debate the national budget in Washington, they routinely apply different assumptions, projections, and baselines that support conveniently the particular policy they are endorsing. Seemingly, Washington leaders apply statistics, as a drunken man would use a lamppost- for support instead of illumination. According to United States and Library of Congress (2013), the proposed solution to this problem involves granting American citizens the right to know how their tax money is spent. For this reason, the Congress should work to broadcast a televised fiscal report on the annual budget and intended spending. The president, the vice and cabinet ministers should attend this update session. These attendants should bear the responsibility of ascertaining the completeness and accuracy of the fiscal report.

Another problem plaguing the Congress revolves around the down or up voting on presidential appointments. Primarily, the founders of the American nation conferred to the Senate powers of over presidential appointments. They did this with the hope that the president would be encouraged to appoint qualified personnel who would avoid conflict of interest. Currently, the senators seemingly exhibit conflict of interest with major presidential appointments delayed for narrow interests of a senator or other trivial reasons. In 2010 for example, a senator maliciously held up seventy presidential nominees for purposes of securing federal funds for his state.

In 2011, about 200 positions appointment by President Obama remained unfilled. In previous years, key positions at the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department were left unfilled for reasons with little or nothing to do the nominees’ credibility. The advice and consent of the Senate regarding presidential appointments is fundamental. However, the current process does not resemble what the Founders had in mind. These problems arise because of the lack of a timeline to govern these nominations (United States and Library of Congress, 2013). Hence, the proposed solution holds that all presidential nominations should be rejected or confirmed within ninety days of the Senate receiving the nomination. This ninety-day period includes both floor action and the committee. If a nominee is not confirmed or rejected within the stipulated period, then the nominee should be confirmed through default.

A popular issue about Congress is that most of the legislation it undertakes is designed to score political points or embarrass the other party. Legislation can be taken into consideration by the Senate or the full house only when it is endorsed by committee or leadership chairs; that often pursue political benefit when they keep Republicans and Democrats at loggerheads with each other. Currently, the leaders of the Congress seemingly do not want Republicans and Democrats working together. Hence, legislation supported by the majority normally dies down in the office of the committee or the leader.

The constitution of the United States stands for and upholds democracy. It looks to foster a sense of fair and equal dealings in the matters relating to the election of leaders in office. It is through this document that a solution to the problem stated above is designed. According to the proposed solution, the decision making process in Congress should be democratized in order to break the gridlock (Dodd and Oppenheimer, 2011). If a majority requires supports a particular issue, they should not be compromised by party leaders who intend to convert the Congress into a warring clan. This is why the house should allow the anonymous signing of discharge petitions.

Ultimately, this would allow majority members to reject the chair’s refusal to re-table a bill. Once the majorities have forwarded their signatures, their names should then be made public. The current statute allows the discharge of petitions but the names of the signers are publicized from the start. This normally makes members reluctant to contend with party leaders who may react by barring the members from important committees. Hence, this reform would allow members to approve a discharge approval knowing that they are secured.

Another problem associated with the Congress involves absenteeism. According to Woody Allen, 90 percent of life involves showing up. One of the major reasons why Congress is unable to achieve its objectives is because most members do not show up in the House or the Senate. Routinely, members of the Congress go to visit their home districts on Thursdays to attend fundraises or meet with constituents, and often do not return to the House until the following week. Tom Daschle, a former Democratic Senate, admitted that Wednesday was the only day of the week when all one hundred senators attended the House.

A mammoth of problems are bombarding the Congress and a lot of work needs to be done. However, this work cannot be done by absent members. A solution to this problem thus is that a five-day working week should be put in place. Most people in America and other countries perform work five days a week. The Congress should hence follow a similar program. In a whole month, members should be allowed a period of one week in their home state and three weeks of office work. According to the US constitution, statues cannot be passed unless they have gone through both the Senate and the House. If members are running different schedules as they are now, it gets harder to accomplish objectives. Hence, leaders of the Senate and the House should work to ensure that members are present in the same weeks.

President Obama in January 2010 attended Republican House retreat for a public debate regarding the advantages of the proposed healthcare law. For a few hours, the nation was able to witness its leaders engage in debate with each other. However, such an event has not happened since. Currently, the president and Congress members often debate with each other through the media. The problems facing America are too big to be addressed by wars of partisan debates (Ornstein, 2011). It is important to identify these problems and address them appropriately.

A solution to this problem can be drawn from the British regular interrogation of the prime minister. Similarly, such a program should be applied for the president and the Congress. Even meetings of such magnitude may be contentious; at least they make leaders face each other give reasons for their professional decisions. At this point, Congress can be able to point out the various points members have failed to deliver (Ornstein, 2011). The idea would work like this: the Senate and the House would hold monthly meetings for discussion and questions. The president is also expected to attend. Each meeting would last about ninety minutes and be broadcasted in national television.

President Ronald Reagan in 1983 collaborated with the Senate and the House to pass a bill intended to keep social security solvent for the coming generations. This kind of collaboration is hard to come by with the current Congress. Even though President Reagan and Senate leaders such as Bob Michel were democratic and conservative leaders, they managed to find viable solutions to challenging issues because they first worked to establish personal relationships. The problem with the current Congress is that most get-togethers or meetings are mostly based criticism rather than solving legislative issues. Democrat and Republican leaders have turned most meetings into rallies for partisan peps (Mann and Ornstein, 2009). Therefore, the problem lies with them and hence need to help change the agenda and turn to problem solving. A solution to this problem involves forming a bipartisan congressional committee to discuss both substantive solutions and legislative agendas. Subject to mutual agreement, this committee would be holding regular meetings with the president.

Congress is a big body with numerous responsibilities. Consequently, it is important to divide the labor and delegate it to other staff. The Executive and Judiciary use this concept and depend on professional staff to carry out some of their responsibilities. Beyond the government, corporations such as Microsoft and Google also professional staff taking charge of various responsibilities. CEO’s and top management in these corporations have strict time schedules that restrict them from accounting to all minutias of all decisions. Similarly, members of the Congress are subjected to a mammoth of duties and hence become rationally ignorant of major pieces of legislation. While most citizens criticize members for their failure to read bills that come before them, most citizens would nevertheless rather have these members deal with case with casework or attend to constituents than read every line of the bill. Members of Congress in this case would be relived off strenuous activities and have more deciding the “correct” vote to a piece of legislation.

One the major barriers preventing Congress from solving problems is that members are only required to make a signature to verify their ability to perform. A case in point; all members of the House are under a pledge to refrain from raising taxes. A hundred and ten members in the House are also under a pledge that prevents them from cutting any social security benefits. It is therefore a cause for concern that Congress cannot balance the book. These pledges are interests of activist groups that want to have Congress members controlled (Mann and Ornstein, 2009). The solution to this problem hence requires the Congress members to take certain pledges that regulate their professional activities. This would be an efficient method of preventing Congress members from acting inappropriately while in office.


Primarily, the Congress is a fundamental institution in America’s political arena. This body works by addressing matters such as powers conferred to the president and uses deliberate debate to attend to various issues. However, current Congress has not been able to handle most of its responsibilities due to a number of problems. With little or no incentive to address them, these problems accumulated over the years thus spiraling out of control. Ultimately, these issues have marred the Congress from performing its constitutional responsibilities (Congressional Quarterly, 2008). However, making a number of statutory and constitution changes would ensure that these problems are alleviated and have the Congress perform as expected.

The Congress problems highlighted in this paper mainly revolve around finance, absenteeism, and the manner in which responsibilities are attended to in the House and Congress. Hence, the statutory and constitutional solutions proposed to solve these problems are not centered on making new laws or new spending. Rather, they are straightforward and involved proposals designed to break the gridlock, reduce polarization, and promote constructive discussion in the Congress. In conclusion, it is clear that the problems experienced in the Congress are affected other independent federal bodies such as the Aviation Administration and the State Department. Ultimately, if the proposed solutions highlighted in this essay are implemented, Congress will perform its constitutional duties and attend to the needs of the US nation.



Annenberg Public Policy Center. (2006). The broken branch: How Congress is failing America and how to get it back on track. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bernstein, R. B., & Agel, J. (2012). Amending America: If we love the Constitution so much, why do we keep trying to change it?. New York: Times Books.

Bianco, W. T. (2000). Congress on display, Congress at work. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Brady, D. W., & McCubbins, M. D. (2012). Party, process, and political change in Congress: New perspectives on the history of Congress. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.

Congressional Quarterly, inc. (2008). How Congress works. Washington, D.C: CQ Press.

Danziger, S., Sandefur, G. D., & Weinberg, D. H. (2011). Confronting Congress: Prescriptions for change. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Dodd, L. C., & Oppenheimer, B. I. (2011). Congress reconsidered. Washington, D.C: Congressional Quarterly Press.

English, R. M. (2013). The United States Congress. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

Mann, T. E., & Ornstein, N. J. (2009). The New Congress. Washington: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

Ornstein, N. J. (2011). Congress in change: Evolution and reform. New York: Praeger.

Polsby, N. W. (2007). How Congress evolves: Social bases of institutional change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

United States., & Library of Congress. (2013). Congressional reorganization: Options for change : report of the Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress to the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, One Hundred Third Congress, first session. Washington: U.S. G.P.O.




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