What are some of the important roles of Congress today? and how do they differ from the early times when Congress first started?
We need legislation and we need a budget, and to make those processes democratic is cumbersome and sometimes infuriating. But we had just emerged from dictatorship and then a failed Articles of Confederation. The Framers wanted to design a system strong enough to complete the necessary business of America, yet balanced enough to prevent future dictatorships by the executive. They also had to appease the many large and small states who had different ideas about what Congress should look like. Despite its current 87% disapproval rating, I'd say the Framers did quite well with their design.
I know it's a generalization, but it seems to me the early Congressmen were passionate for ideas and policies and country; today's Congressmen (and women) are consumed with power and agenda and personal gain. I know that's not true across the board, but as a body the modern Congress has consistently demonstrated a disdain for the will of the people. How many times do they ignore their constituents (because they can, as mentioned above) and haughtily proclaim they know best. Their arrogance, at times, is astounding to me. This job was not designed to be a career; it was designed to be an opportunity to serve and represent.
The main difference I see is that Congressmen in the early stages weren't just congressmen. They met, discussed issues, voted, and went home to their full-time jobs. They saw their constituents daily and were forced to explain decisions and votes they cast. They were truly representatives. They worked hard, worked for the people, and were patriotic lovers of this country regardless of their party affliliation or ethnic background. Of course, since most everyone was Christian then, religion wasn't an issue.
Today, they seem to be in Washington on a full time basis but many rarely show up to vote on issues. The only thing they love and are loyal to is themselves, but they'll tell you they're Christian, or Muslim, or whatever the majority of the crowd is at the time. They play to minorities in one city, to gender in another, and then become "good ole boys" with rolled-up shirt sleeves and an occasional "y'all" when they're in the midwest or south campaigning. They owe taxes, many of them bounce checks, they take bribes, they take care of themselves with their frequent votes to give themselves raises, and they fly around in private airplanes talking about how dumb the rest of us are. They have the perfect medical program and perfect social security program, so they're not too worried about fixing ours since it doesn't apply to them. They are money-hungry, power-crazed media darlings who know just how to tilt the head and smile charmingly at the camera while they tell us what they think we want to hear.
So, American politics is changed by the mass media and it is all about image, is it, kapokkid? Is this not more of a change than is suggested by #2? It does beg the question about how much American politics is media driven and the role and influence of the media on bodies such as Congress and other political institutions.
This is a tad cynical, but I think relevant. Congress in the early days was in some sense a deliberative body. People brought motions or bills before the body of the Congress and people debated their merits and made decisions based on their own previous bias but also at times based on the merits of the arguments, etc. that people presented.
Nowadays Congress is far more of a performance based group. Since they are always on TV and since they have to compete for sound byte type material, they focus much more on presenting a certain sort of picture to their audience. Much of the deliberative process has been removed thanks to the fact that the deal making and buying of votes is far more streamlined and efficient these days so usually their position is decided and often even sent to the room, they only show up to vote for important votes.
I actually don't see much in way of differences between the founders' vision of Congress' roles and the modern setting. It's not as if the roles of Congress have been greatly redefined since the Constitution was drafted. The inclusion of Congressional Pay Rises as an amendment might be one significant change, but the process by which this was added was no different. If anything has changed, it would certainly be the political climate. The emergence of heterogeneous and competing interests have made Congressional gridlock a reality. This is something that the framers did not have to deal with because political composition was much more homogeneous back then as opposed to right now. Congress consists of many more interests to represent and this brings about political challenge in navigating legislation and the focus of congressional progress.