Spectrum Logo

Congressional Paralysis Caused by Must Win Mentality & Non-Stop Campaigning

Posted on:

< < Back to

The consolidation of power in House of Representative leadership positions has spurred on the devolution of Congress from a “respected legislative institution to a body plagued by a win-at-all-costs mentality and a culture of perpetual campaigning,” says Donald Wolfensberger, author and scholar.
Wolfensberger, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., also was a former Congressional staffer for nearly three decades. He knows the inner workings of the House and its committee structure.
In his new book, “Changing Cultures in Congress: From Fair Play to Power Plays” says that leadership within the party in the majority has consolidated power and limited consideration of legislation and amendments.
Wolfensberger claims that this “top-down micro-managing of the legislative process by majority leadership…has discouraged members from developing expertise and ideas to address major problems.”
He also says that Representatives spend so much of their time returning to their districts, running for office and raising money that it is difficult for them to legislate.
He suggests change in the current three-day work week. Instead, he says they should meet five days a week for three weeks with one week off to campaign.
Wolfensberger suggests that the additional time might enhance a “culture of governing” which includes a greater role in “oversight” of the other branches of government as well as developing legislation to address national problems.
He capped off his 28 year Congressional career as Chief-of-Staff of the House Rules committee before launching a 22 year career with Washington think tanks studying Congress. His previous book was “Congress and the People: Deliberative Democracy on Trial.” published in 2000.