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“The greatest deliberative body known to man”

Friday, March 2nd, 2012


Earlier this week, Congressman David Dreier (R-California), who has been serving in Congress since 1981, announced that he would retire from the legislative body at the end of his current term. In his five-minute speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, he acknowledged Congress’s “abysmally low approval rating” even as he praised the institution:

Now, I take the unusual step of announcing [my retirement] from here in the well of the House because I am a proud institutionalist. I believe that this institution is as great as it has ever been. Mr. Speaker, I announce it from here because, between the Rules Committee upstairs where you serve with me, Mr. Speaker pro tem, and the House floor, this is where the people of California sent me to represent them.

Now, as we look at the challenges that lie ahead, they are very, very great. I deliberated over this decision, and I have to say that three years ago I contemplated leaving at the end of that Congress, but ultimately made a decision that I wanted to continue to serve through this term. I wanted to do so in hopes that we would win the majority, with a goal of pursuing the four-point platform that I had always run on, that being the pursuit of a free economy, limited government, a strong national defense, and personal freedom. Mr. Speaker, I wanted to work with not just my Republican colleagues, but my Democratic colleagues as well, working in a bipartisan way to accomplish a number of things.

[...]

Now, I do believe, again, Mr. Speaker, that this is the greatest deliberative body known to man. We’ve got a great deal of work that lies ahead throughout this year. But I’m looking forward to following the Madisonian directive [in Federalist 57]–that Members of Congress, after serving here, should go out and live with the laws that have passed. I will say that, as passionate as we’ve been pursuing a pro-growth jobs-creating agenda, I look forward to doing that myself as I move into the private sector next year.

Dreier’s assertion that the Congress “is the greatest deliberative body known to man” is a helpful reminder that, despite its problems, our system of government is unique, even exceptional. As Walter Berns noted in September, after a lifetime of studying the American Constitution, he “came away with a sense of the extraordinary achievement of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, and James Wilson as founders. We are an extraordinary nation because no other country has had men or women like our Founders; and we should appreciate them, respect them, and study them and in the process acquire an ever-stronger attachment to this country of ours.”

AEI