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