In the modern culture of America’s Congress political reform, or restructuring, is an uncertainty. Political gridlock is the process of reform to policies being delayed, and/or stopped, to prevent change. Gridlock can be caused by many different factors, occurs in many levels of government, and even has different theories ” or ideologies ” as to why it is an ongoing problem, or why not. This article is not meant to be one offering insight to gridlock, but instead explaining why it exists.
For the entirety of the nation’s history, political bodies have struggled with the concept of gridlock. Some Congresses less than others; yet, all struggled and do now.The most common, and functionally important, kind of gridlock is structural. Both the constitutional framers design and the design for Congress allow ” indeed, anticipate ” for many more ways in which lawmaking, policy inaction, and reform can be prohibited, or stopped, than made possible. These complications are called veto-gates, or the many different paths by which laws can fail to make legislative approval.
Structural gridlock is reflected in countless features of the American Constitution ”all features in which require the consensus of more than one branch of government in the alteration of the status quo. Some of these features mentioned include the lawmaking process requiring participation of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the President, or the overriding of the President by super-majorities in both the House and the Senate (judicial review; the impeachment process ” depending on the division of authority between the House and the Senate; the appointment process needing both presidential nomination and Senate approval; treaty ratification requiring at least two-thirds approval of the Senate; and the appropriations process, which must begin in the House of Representatives).According to one of my sources ” a woman named Sarah Binder who works with the Brookings Institute in Governance Studies ” the Congressional gridlock known in today’s current political climate is stemmed in part from a lack of understanding as to what gridlock is in reform. Binder states:When output is low, we say that gridlock is high, and vice versa. But measuring output without respect to the agenda of salient issues risks misstating the true level of gridlock. A Congress might produce little legislation because it is truly gridlocked. Or it might be unproductive because it faces a limited agenda. With little on its legislative plate, surelyCongress should not be blamed for producing meager results. (Binder)Salient in these terms means prominent, or conspicuous. In this, Binder has explained why it is that Congress is not necessarily mired in gridlock. She details and endeavors to show an example of Congressional stalemates being a dependent variable, and how when different independent variables change so does the “gridlock” percentage. However, as Binder says in the end of her article …Diagnosing the ills of a body politic is one thing; rousing the patient to seek treatment is another, (Binder). This quote and the other segments in the source are used to better understand the polarization between house and senate, as well as different parties. When Binder stated in her article the different reasons that Congress goes into political “gridlock” it can be pertinent to use this to further extend the research into views on political “gridlock”. However, gridlock is not steady. As seen in Binder’s research, gridlock percentage can be manipulated. Through different means a person, or a political officer, can change reform delay. Reform delay is a centralized topic of gridlock in Congress. It appears through many different research articles on the topic of gridlock. From health reform, to general policy reform, suspension has been deemed inevitable by many. In an article by Justin Phillips and Patricia Kirkland ” titled Is Divided Government a Cause of Legislative Delay ” the mention of legislative setbacks emphasizes the importance of reform. In Kirkland and Phillips’s article an inference can be made, based upon written evidence, that a divided, partisan government ” being of strong support to one side or cause ” is the cause of legislative delay. Kirkland and Phillip use theoretical evidence from past political scientists to prove delays mentioned. One such piece of evidence is a statement about America’s partisan government by V.O. Key. Keys stated that American government was designed not to prosper long, but instead to fail. To emphasize many of the failures of government due to legislative setbacks Kirkland and Phillip have written about delays in the budget making process, and the delays leading to the basis of a budget crisis. In addition the authors go further in depth about the topic. They do so by making an appendix that describes their approach to gathering and using their information. Normally not needed, this appendix shows that while in other articles the same information may be used, it is different for Kirkland and Phillip. What is of even more importance to the topic of reform delay throughout Congress is the types of delay and the reasons. There have always been arguments in all governmental systems. For some reason, in the American democracy the arguments never settle quickly. Often, Congressmen and women will hold lasting filibustering sessions to prevent policy reform. Filibusters are actions such as prolonged speeches that obstruct progressions in a legislative assembly while not technically contravening the required procedures. Often it is the filibuster that can end the discussion of reform in policies. Today there is an extremely well-known phrase, a do nothing Congress, coined by President Truman in 1948. This metaphor has begun to have more widespread use as a correct description of reform makers by many. The one question of why has gridlock been so bad recently, is a topic many political scientists think about. Most blame polarization. Polarization has an effect. Bipartisan, two political parties that usually oppose each other’s policies, agreements have become more and more uncommon as neutral members of Congress, people with open minds have lost their positions in office. This, having been coupled with a Senate demanding 60-votes to pass legislation, is a big reason why gridlock has become more common in recent decades.Polarization has an important effect on policy delay, but an argument can be made that polarization should take a back seat to another explanation: inter-chamber discourse. Research has shown that House of Representative and Senate differences in ideas are probably the most important indicators of gridlock. Even in cases of a unified Congress, a signal difference between the chambers can significantly raise gridlock percentage. In Binder’s article, she illustrates that bipartisan context is the largest indicator of gridlock and productivity failure ” outperforming both polarization and traditional divided government.The effect of polarization on productivity is particularly of a violent effect when Congress is divided. This is not the same as a divided government ” meaning one party controls the Executive Branch and the other controls the Legislative. Divided control of the Nation’s legislature is the condition America finds itself in today: one party controls the House of Representatives and the other party controls the Senate.From 1947, until now, there have been six different Congresses with divided party control. From 1981 to 1987 (the 104th, 105th, and the 106th Congress), Republicans controlled the Senate and Democrats controlled the House of Representatives. The 107th Senate was mostly controlled by Democrats ” with the exception of roughly 4 months ” while Republicans controlled the House. Finally, the 112th and 113th Congresses are divided both in the same way. In concept historically it is rare. The five divided legislative groups before the 113th Congress passed 27% fewer laws than Congresses with unified control, on average, regardless of who controlled the White House. Unfortunately, the more polarized the legislature, the less policies are reformed and laws passed. Hyperpolarized parties control each one Congressional party. As seen routinely in the 113th Congress, laws passed by one chamber are, for lack of better terms, dead-on-arrival in the other.As legislative leaders regrouped from a disheartening government shutdown, and prepared for President Trump’s State of the Union address, America’s capitol was absorbed with concern that Trump’s presidency has forced an already dysfunctional, full of miscommunication and fueled on discord, Congress into a state of almost permanent gridlock. Although intriguing to view the effects on America permanent gridlock would have, or lack thereof, this would almost completely compromise American Congress as it is known today.However, even the sense of impending gloom is bipartisan. A group of Republicans in the House of Representatives, and the Senate, are warning of a plot in the American F.B.I. to overthrow the Trump government. Democrats worry of corruption and authoritarianism, gone unopposed by a Congress that has turned into the executive’s adjunct. The Senate has literally forgotten how to function, said one senator, Angus King, independent party of Maine. We’re like a high school football team that hasn’t won a game in five years. We’ve forgotten how to win. Another senator Ben Sasse, Republican Party of Nebraska, is no more sanguine, or in other words optimistic. Congress is weaker than it has been in decades, the Senate isn’t tackling our great national problems, and this has little to do with who sits in the Oval Office, he said. Both parties ” Republicans and Democrats ” are obsessed with political survival and incumbency. Sasse means that those in power over the laws made in America are more concerned with keeping their position and paycheck, than helping create reform.In fact the dysfunction has played out in very odd and confusing ways. The three-day shutdown over immigration came and went so fast that many Democrats saw no point for it. Last year’s feeble efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Yet, some issues that both parties say they agree on ” from raising military spending to banning bump stocks, which allow a semiautomatic weapon to fire like a machine gun ” remain undone. The U.S. constitution even has clauses within the framework to address gridlock. Although the framers of the constitution could never have guessed the effect of partisan government on the lawmaking process to be so devastating, there is no way to shroud the eyes of Americans from the delays all around. Gridlock is required to allow for more thought to go into the different policies in American legislature. Yet, there is a level of gridlock that is considered to be unconstitutional. Through research it seems the only way to mend gridlock is to overhaul the governmental reform policy. As it is now two parties cannot work together to end gridlock. If any one policy favors a single side more than the other, politicians ask, why use it? When looking at the government it is evident that the bicameral system of democracy America knows today is hurting the nation. In the most commonly used terms, known to the men and women of America, to fix the nation’s Congressional divide is to end the delay of legislative reform, and to rebuild the nation.As once said by Alexander Hamilton, The constitution shall never be construed… Give all the power to the many, they will oppress the few. Give all the power to the few, they will oppress the many. May the government never oppose the needs or wants of those many people it governs.