What Are the Varying Goals That Shape the Behavior of Members of Congress?
Partisan divisions within Congress may result in legislative gridlock, or lead to increased negotiation and compromise. Likewise, divided government between the legislative and executive branches can give rise to partisan standoffs, such as congressional refusal to approve presidential appointments or to vote for presidential initiatives. Congressional redistricting to favor one party over another, or gerrymandering, is motivated by partisanship and can also further entrench it.
Each Member may also emphasize different duties during different stages of his or her career. With no written requirements, each Member is free to define his or her own job and set his or her own priorities.
Representation can also be considered in other ways. Descriptive representation is the level at which Congress reflects the nation’s constituents in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic status. Collective representation is the extent to which the institutional body of Congress represents the population as a whole (Jennifer E. Manning, 2016). Despite the incumbency advantage and high opinion many hold of their own legislators, Congress rarely earns an approval rating above 40 percent, and for a number of years the rating has been well below 20 percent.
Steven S. Smith. 1999. The American Congress. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Edmund Burke, "Speech to the Electors of Bristol," 3 November 1774, http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch23s7.html (May 1, 2016).
"Claire McCaskill, Emily’s List Celebrate Women’s Wins in 2012," 14 November 2012, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/11/claire-mccaskill-emilys-list-celebrate-womens-wins-in-2012/ (May 1, 2016).
Jennifer E. Manning, "Membership of the 114th Congress: A Profile," 1 December 2015, http://www.senate.gov/CRSReports/crs-publish.cfm?pid=%260BL*RLC2 (May 15, 2016); "The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Conference," http://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/HAIC/Historical-Essays/Strength-Numbers/Caucus-Conference/ (May 15, 2016).