THE PRIVATE WORLD OF CONGRESS by Rochelle & Peter Woll Jones


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The fact that politics is about power should not be surprising,"" we are told, but then neither should anything else in this unbelievably elementary survey that purports to reveal the inner workings of Congress. Brandeis professor of politics Peter Woll and journalist Rochelle Jones have discovered that politicians lust after power, and that this motivates their actions. Why do Congressmen seek reelection? ""Because they are hooked on Congress."" And, in the same vein, the so-called ""reform"" effort of the early Seventies was ""a power grab by members who were losing out"" (especially Missouri's Richard Bolling, who tried to build a power base from his position on the House Rules Committee). Plus: Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson used to grant each freshman Senator one major committee assignment ""to increase his power by putting the new Senator squarely in his debt."" (Oh, yes. . . ""First-term Congressmen are frequently referred to as freshmen. . . ."") Stressing the difference between legislative and reelection activities (and ignoring the latter), Woll and Jones note that legislation is written to impress colleagues, not constituents; to gain committee power and other ""perks."" For example, former Florida Congressman Paul Rogers, whose district was no medical-treatment (i.e., health-interest) center, adopted the health issue solely as an avenue to power; and California Congressman Henry Waxman shared campaign contributions with colleagues who could elect him chairman of the Health Subcommittee. (Part of the Congressional Record Daily Digest is even reproduced to show the plethora of committee meetings.) A firm grasp of the obvious.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan