The Representativeness of Representatives

The Representativeness of Representatives - and mid-1970s...

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The Representativeness of Representatives On average, members of Congress do not resemble their constituents. The typical congressperson is a white Protestant male, a lawyer by profession, and wealthier than the average citizen. The number of women, African Americans, and Hispanics has increased substantially since 1990, but women and minorities are still proportionally underrepresented. The following chart compares the population of the United States to the members of Congress (data taken from the 2000 census and the 108th Congress). Characteristic U.S. Population House Senate Median Age 35.3 54 59.5 Percentage of Minorities 24.9 15.4 3 Percentage of Women 50.9 14.3 14 Percentage of Population with Assets Worth $1 Million or More 0.7 16 33 Performing Oversight Congress oversees the bureaucracy and ensures that laws go into effect properly through a process known as oversight. Committees regularly hold hearings and launch investigations to check for abuse and waste. Example: Some of the most memorable moments in political history have come as a result of oversight. In the early
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Unformatted text preview: and mid-1970s, both houses had committees investigating the Watergate scandal, which eventually pushed President Richard Nixon out of office. Americans closely followed similar hearings about the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s. Political Uses of Oversight Sometimes members of Congress will use oversight for political gain. In the 1990s, for example, Congress held hearings about IRS abuse of taxpayers. Although the stories told there were true, they accounted for a minuscule percentage of cases. Nevertheless, members were happy to publicize the hearings in order to look like they were cracking down on the IRS, a federal agency citizens love to hate. Sometimes fear of oversight is used as a political tool. Leading up to the 2006 elections, for example, Republicans charged that a Democratic takeover of either house of Congress would lead to punitive oversight investigations....
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