CHAPTER ONE The Constitution Everything Congress does is rooted in the Constitution. Well, almost every- thing—the founders surely didn’t anticipate the influence that lobbyists or social media, or even C-SPAN, would have on members’ ability to do and keep their jobs. Yet even in today’s complex day and age, the Constitution specifically articulates Congress’s roles and responsibilities. It is the rule book that teams, coaches, and referees continue to refer to explain the nuances of the governance game it defines the game as we know it, describes how teams are formulated and the various player positions, states the ways by which new players can be acquired, and even goes so far as to define the standards for ejecting players who violate the rules. Our founding fathers were serious about creating a sustainable represen- tative democracy and were very intentional when articulating the three branches of government. They believed that checks and balances were criti- cal for a legitimate government. The branches are unique yet complementary— each is essential to the functionality of the other two and the government as a whole. Like a three-legged stool, if one branch is broken,1 the entire gov- ernment will topple. In order to understand why Congress comes with the price tag it does, we need to understand the historical primacy of the Legislative Branch. There are questions we need to ask and answer in order to understand the very magnitude of Article I of the Constitution. Broadly speaking, the ideals of our representational governance are embodied by the Legislative Branch. This is particularly true of the House, which is made up solely of members who represent us. At least some of us. In this chapter, we rely on the framers’ vision to provide a broad under- standing of the Legislative Branch. The Constitution provides the outline for this chapter, so to speak, as we compare the body’s original directives to today’s Congress.
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