Orientation and Getting Started
Early Development of the Legislative Branch and the Problem of Representation
Enumerated Powers of Congress
Implied, Expansive, and Limited Powers
The Two Congresses: Representation and Lawmaking
Separation of Powers and Interaction between the Branches
Institutional Development and Change
Congress and the American People

Representation in Congress

The Negotiation of Representation

Although Pitkin’s theory nicely defines the essential elements of representation, more contemporary theories take a dynamic approach to the relationships between elected officials and their constituents. Political scientist Richard Fenno (1978) has written about representation as a process of “negotiation” between representatives and their constituents. Representation reflects a combination of individual member goals, career sequence, and the constituent context. Members of Congress have multiple goals—re-election, influence within Congress, and making good public policy—and the weight a member assigns to those goals affects how he/she interacts with constituents. The stage of a member’s career, also affects the negotiation between representatives and constituents.  Early in a member’s career, he or she must focus on building support for re-election, and so is more attentive to constituents.  As a member’s career progresses and, he or she enjoys widespread name recognition and stable support for reelection, he or she can focus less on the district and more gaining influence within Congress or developing public policy goals.  Finally, context, specifically the composition of the district in terms of partisanship, geographical character (rural, urban, suburban), and the demographics of the voters, affects the relationships.  Members must be particularly attentive to context after decennial redistricting, when population shifts and the redrawing of district lines may cause them to have to build relationships with new constituents, much like they did when they were first elected to Congress.