Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lots of Newbees in Congress

In 2009, 147 House representatives (33.8% of the entire body) had six years or less of House experience; by 2013 that had risen to 196, or 45%. In the Senate, 54 senators are in their first term, the most since the 97th Congress in 1981.

The 29 senators who are in their third, fourth or even later term have very disproportionate influence. Since the senate term is 6 years, some of these men are quite old. That doesn't seem a good idea -- and it is one that Jefferson thought was bad. Similarly 146 representatives have served seven or more terms, 14 or more years; 72 have served 10 or more terms, 20 years or more in the same job.

Forgetting how long it takes to figure out how to get anything done in an organization of 100 or 435 voting members with complex and arcane procedures, how long does it take to master the mass of U.S. laws and U.S. policy? First term newbees may not get much done.

Is the relatively large number of people who have been less than 6 years in Congress a sign of the dysfunctional nature of the current electoral process? Is it in itself a reason that the Congress is so unproductive?

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