Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

July 10, 2013

A fine mess

Report: Divisions in Congress just getting worse

For 30 years a report called Vital Statistics on Congress has given the public an assessment of the legislative branch. To the surprise of probably no one, this year’s survey finds the Congress to be more polarized than ever.

Thomas E. Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman J. Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute jointly analyzed Congressional data and issued the report. Mann said in a video published with the report: “The most striking feature of the contemporary Congress is extreme partisan polarization, which has reached the level not seen in well over a century.”

In 2012, party unity votes in the House stood at 72.8 percent, up from about 54.5 percent in 2006. Roll-call votes in support of the president’s agenda by members of the opposition were below 50 percent.

Not only is Congress sharply divided along party lines, it is more diverse than ever. The current Congress includes a record number of women (96), African-Americans (42) and Hispanics (31), but remains a predominantly white, male institution.

Another glaring finding in the report is the sharp reduction in the number of military veterans serving in Congress. To wit:

• There has been a dramatic decline in the number of veterans serving in Congress over the past half-century. From the end of World War II to the close of the gulf war, the majority of members of the House and Senate had served in the military. But today, barely a fifth of the members of Congress identify as veterans.

• Before 2003, more members of the House said they worked in law than any other sector, besides the military, before winning their seats. Now more members identify as having worked in the business or banking sector, or public service or politics. In the 113th Congress, 187 members said they worked in business and banking, whereas 156 said they worked in law. Only 89 member identify as having served in the military, while 184 said they worked in public service or politics before winning their seats. In the Senate, more members identify as having worked in law than any other profession.

Perhaps it is the diminishment of military veterans that has led, in part, to the partisanship and bickering that dominates the Washington scene. Veterans have always put their country before self — and many of them have had distinguished congressional careers after returning from their military duties.

Whatever the case, Americans have long been fed up with the divisiveness in D.C. This latest report merely validates what we already know: Congress is a mess.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • It’s a secret It’s a secret

    Could someone enlighten us about why not even the names of the two entities bidding on development of the Footer Dye Works building can be divulged?
    A Times-News article about the bids included an explanation from a lawyer for the attorney general’s office about the need to keep the names and other information secret at this time. Despite that, the logic of not divulging at least a little more information escapes us.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • What do we do about those who weren’t criminals after all?

    Now that Maryland has become the 17th state to (finally) decriminalize possession of marijuana, one could say that the legislature and governor should be patted on the back for doing the right thing.

    April 17, 2014

  • The first step The first step

    If all goes as planned, Frostburg State University will one day offer a doctorate in nursing, a physician’s assistant program and a new health sciences building on campus.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Translations differ, but the message is eternal

    This letter is in response to a recent letter titled “One cannot compromise on God’s word” (April 13 Times-News). I had previously written a letter titled “Why are compromises so difficult to achieve” (April 7).

    April 15, 2014

  • Closing the loopholes will help clear the regulatory waters

    After a decade of uncertainty over Clean Water Act jurisdiction following Supreme Court challenges in 2001 and 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers announced a forthcoming administrative rule to close enforcement loopholes, restoring protections to 20 million acres of wetlands, more than half the nation’s streams, and drinking water for 117 million Americans.

    April 15, 2014

  • The first step Remember where your freedom comes from before criticizing

    The deal at Fort Hood could have been avoided if it was caught in time.
    When you think a GI is not acting right, have him or her checked out before you put them back on duty and give them a weapon. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious and dangerous problem if it is not taken care of right away.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Where to look Where to look

    Drive anywhere in Maryland and it seems there is one highway construction project after another. While it is good to see our roads and bridges being upgraded, it can be nerve-wracking for anyone traveling a long distance.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Midterm elections give chance to return to American values

    A movement has been started by veterans of our armed forces to get out the vote in 2014. That includes Coast Guard and Merchant Marine personnel for those not familiar with the history of both and their sacrifice. This is no small special interest  group, but many millions of Americans who can have an enormous impact on the  outcome of the November election if they all respond.

    April 14, 2014

  • Speed cameras Speed cameras

    We’ve never been big fans of speed cameras, primarily for two reasons. First, because the cameras are not always accurate, and secondly because many jurisdictions seem to create revenue by installing cameras and issuing high numbers of speeding tickets.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Group wants status quo on Sunday hunting

    Many Maryland residents have grown very concerned about two legislative bills that are arriving on the desk of Gov. Martin O’Malley after being approved by both the Senate and House chambers this session. With the governor’s possible signature of these bills into law, hunting would be allowed on certain state lands on Sundays — a day in the past reserved for rest and non-hunters to enjoy public lands.

    April 10, 2014