Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Committee Seniority Problem

We have all heard the argument "Re-elect me, the new guy wont have the seniority to get anything done" Where have we heard these thoughts from recently?

In running for his fourth term in the United States Senate, Conrad Burns has pledged to use his seniority and experience to bring new opportunities to Montana while using common sense and conservative ideals to confront the challenges facing America.

It is a message he often slips in: Look at everything I am delivering for Montana! Tester would have to start all over! If you want pork, vote for me! It is a message some voters even buy into.

I support Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., mainly because of the seniority and positions Conrad has in the senate. He has brought prestige to the state, and we cannot afford to start all over establishing seniority.

Does anyone besides me see the problem with this argument? It obviously works really well on some level, as about 95% of congressional incumbents win re-election. While their are other arguments to be made for keeping an incumbent (maybe they are liked, honest and full of integrity...) but the idea of seniority is often raised.

Is this a valid argument? Can one assume that if seniority is a perfectly good reason for re-election (as the letter-writer above does) then it make logical sense to make congress a lifelong appointment? That way you never need to be concerned about 'starting over'. No? Of course not. Neither make any sense.

The fundamental problem here is that as congressional members gain seniority, they are also learning to work the system and be worked by the system. What makes the most sense is to 'reshuffle' committees in such a way that the idea of 'seniority' becomes less meaningful. In this manner, states and districts that decide to hold their representatives responsible are not punished by losing 'seniority'.

1 comment:

Colby N. said...

Yeah, this argument is often masking a deeper reasoning: "Elect me, I have already sold out and learned to play the game". You never see a movie about some young politican moving to D.C. to fire up the lobbyists and bring home the bacon, those movies are always about some new politican going to D.C. to clean it up and change things. Burns saying he can get us money is just his way of admitting he can't get anything good done.