Tuesday, October 04, 2022

The Decline of Institutional Ambition

It is perfectly obvious that something has gone wrong with Congress in our time. In one respect, the intensity and energy of the institution are very high at present: Congress is the scene of constant dramatic confrontations and what seem like epic battles - fights over confirmations of judges and other officials, budget showdowns, heated oversight hearings, and more. But in other respects,Congress is doing next to nothing. There hasn't been a proper budget process in over a decade, very little significant legislation gets passed, and most members serving today have never really been part of a traditional legislative process. This juxtaposition of intensity and incapacity amounts to a profound dysfunction. Whether you measure it by legislation, public approval, member satisfaction, or even just the volume of committee work or each house's ability to live by its own procedures, the Congress now looks to be in disarray.

- Yuval Levin, A Time to Rebuild

And what does Levin think is the cause? Congress is weak because its members want it to be weak. Their behavior and priorities reflect a peculiar lack of institutional ambition.

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