The Constitution states, “The House of Representatives shall be composedof Members chosen every second Year by the People of the severalStates…” (Art. I, Sec. 2). Contrast this with the original
constitutional language for the other house of Congress, “The Senate ofthe United States shall be composedof two Senators from each State, chosen bythe Legislature thereof for six Years…” (Art. I, Sec. 3). The phrase “chosenby the Legislature” was changed to “elected by the people” bythe 17th Amendment, but not until 1912. In other words, from the beginning theHouse of Representatives was intended to be exactly what its name suggests–representative of the people. (Note that in 2010 the Tea Party, and some
Republican politicians, called for repeal of the 17th Amendment, eliminatingthe popular vote for Senators. While most Republican politicians have backed away from that view, many Tea Party chapters continue to demand its repeal.)
Textbook models suggest how members of the House of Representatives may fulfilltheir constitutional duty to “represent” – the delegate model, thetrustee model, the oversight model, and the service model. A weakness of thesemodels is that they ignore the pervasive influence of interest groups,partisanship, and political money (campaign contributions) on the behavior of congressional reps. To what extent do these factors interfere with effective representation?
After researching your representative by using the assigned resources, identifyone important issue directly related to your rep’s committee or subcommitteework in Congress. Summarize your representative’s position on this focus issueas described on his or her website or illustrated by legislation sponsored byyour rep. Be concrete and specific. Avoid vague generalities like “myrepresentative is for jobs” or “my Congressman is for national security.”
With respect to this focus issue, evaluate your representative’s performance as a representative of the people in your legislative district. Justify your assessment from two perspectives:
How well does your rep’s position on that issue reflect your district’s likely preferences or broad interests on the issue? Support your inferences about the district with fact-based evidence – not just your opinion about the district or your rep’s position on the focus issue. Demonstrate how your rep does or does not reflect his or her constituency on this issue. Consider your rep’s committee memberships and seniority.
Discuss fact-based evidence about how interest groups,political party loyalty, or campaign money may influence your representative. Can these influences weaken his or her effectiveness as a true “representative” of the district? Consider whether the district is considered a “safe” seat or a competitive district. Put on your critical thinking cap to respond to this aspect of the question.
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