Congressional Gridlock

Subject: Political
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 3
Word count: 852
Topics: Political Science

Congressional gridlock relates to the failure by congress to pass law that solve some of the problems the country is facing. According to the US History (2017), congressional gridlock “can occur when the legislative branch of congress and the executive branch of the president are led by different political parties.” Put in simpler terms, the majority members in congress could be republicans and the president is democrat. Republicans may succeed in passing a bill and then the president who is from the different party rejects the bill resulting in gridlock because neither side wants to change their stance. As a result of the congressional gridlock, the number of passed compared to the legislative agenda is low. Because of the gridlock congress is not able to make decisions on a number of matters that are presented before to the congress. 

Constitutional design is one of the greatest causes of the congressional gridlock. The framers of the constitution designed it in such a way that it could prevent a tyrannical regime. As a result, the type of representation was set in a way that it dispersed power between different groups in what is called checks and balances. In this system, the different groups control power at different points in a way prevents one group from establishing a tyranny. In the process of representation, the controls in the different processes of legislation allow any group to block legislation. Depending on which side a control group is leaning there will always be a gridlock unless the house is not divided on the issue being legislated on (Teter, 2013). 

Another cause of congressional gridlocks in the United States is that legislators have become highly polarized. According to Binder (2014), the congress performs dismally in legislating whenever the House of Representatives and senate have divergent policy views or when polarization increases. Polarization generally refers to a situation where legislative action by individual representatives in primarily driven by party ideology or views. When this happens, the likelihood of legislative stalemates in both houses increases. Houses may also be divided in their views about specific policy issues. Whenever the senate and the House of Representatives have highly polarized stands, a legislative gridlock is bound to occur. These differences have been a major cause of congressional gridlock in the recent past. 

Another issue that has been blamed for the congressional gridlock has been the rise of polarization among the electorate. Voters have become more polarized. Congress members and their voters have a relationship in which the member wants to advance the interests of his people. Legislators are motivated by reelection, they will be compelled to make house decisions based on the constituent’s ideologies (Barber and McCarty n.d). Such influence is likely to lead to stalemates in the legislative agenda of congress. 

In their paper “Polarized Politics and Consequences,” Epstein and Graham (2007) argue that to reduce gridlock as a result of polarization, there is need for more elected in congress. In order to have centrist congressmen of congress members who show centrist behavior, party primaries would have to be reforms. Party primaries should be reformed to give allowance for moderate candidates to participate and get elected to the congress. This can be achieved by having open party primaries. This would allow independent voters to participate in the process increasing the probability of having more centrist candidates in the elections. 

Reforms in the redistricting procedures can also help solve the problem of congressional gridlocks. On the redistricting procedures, Epstein and Graham (2007) argue that partisan composition is usually balanced in competitive states. The partisan balance in competitive states favors moderate members. Safe districts on the other hand are noncompetitive and produce more polarized members. The redistricting procedures should be modified so that more competitive districts are created. Redistricting can also be to independent commissions so that a balance is reached in the creation of congressional districts. 

The most recent example of the congressional gridlock has been witnessed when the president attempted to raise the debt ceiling in order to borrow more funding for the government early this year. President Trump and the Republican Party hit a stalemate which was almost pushing the government and the country into a crisis. To resolve the gridlock, the president was forced to cut a compromise with the democrats on the issues of the Obamacare health policy that they were set to repeal. 

Another gridlock that is has threatened the reforms promised by the Republican Party president Donald Trump is the issue of border security funding. The president is set to install massive security measures at the U.S – Mexico border and this requires funding. His efforts to change the immigration laws reforms have hit a gridlock with the president unable to gather the numbers to reform the law. The president is faced with a challenge where it appears that the laws will have to remain as they are or what is called status quo. This incidences show that the politicians just like the citizens are sharply divided on major issues affected the country and the congress is lacking the ability to resolve the challenges through legislation. 

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  1. Barber, M. & McCarty, N. (n.d). Causes and Consequences of Polarization. American Political Science Association
  2. Binder, S. (2014). Polarized we Govern? Center for Effective Public Management at Brookings. 
  3. Epstein, D. & Graham, J. (2007). Polarized Politics and Policy Consequences. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.
  4. Teter, M. (2013). Gridlock, Legislative Supremacy and the Problem of Arbitrary Inaction. Notre Dame Law Review, 88 (5), 2217 – 2232. 
  5. U.S History (2017). Congress: The People’s Branch? 
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