Indiana Daily Student

Congress earns C minus from academic experts

Congress’ performance won’t make the Dean’s List any time soon, according to a report from IU’s Center on Congress.

A group of academic experts asked to assess Congress gave it a C minus for a subpar performance in 2013.

Political scientist Edward Carmines, director of research for the center, said the majority of the experts questioned for the center’s research gave Congress a failing grade.

“We asked, ‘Overall, how would you assess the legislative record of Congress over this past year?’” Carmines said in a press release. “Eighty percent gave Congress either a D or an F.”

Seventy percent of respondents expected no change in Congress’ performance, he said, while 12.5 percent predicted the situation would be worse in the future.
The Center on Congress is a non-partisan institution supported in part by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at IU-Bloomington.

It was established in 1999 to improve citizens’ understanding of Congress.
Data from the survey was collected after the 113th Congress’ first session ended, according to an IU news release.

Forty academic experts on Congress were asked about Congress’ decision-making process.

The legislature consistently received poor grades on each facet of its performance.
“Congress is increasingly seen as a venue for the expression of competing ideological viewpoints,” Carmines said. “The experts think that many members of Congress are so driven by ideology and special interests that there is no room for experts or data or evidence to influence decisions.”

Sixty percent of respondents gave Congress a D or an F on the use of facts and data to reach decisions, and 54 percent said Congress deserved a D or an F for its lack of reliance on the opinions of recognized experts to reach decisions.

“If you’re looking to Congress to confront and deal with major social and economic problems, and to compromise in a way that leads to action on them, then Congress is a great disappointment,” Carmines said.

In the eight years the Center on Congress has conducted this survey, Congress has never scored higher than a C plus in 2008 and 2010.

Experts gave Congress another C minus in 2011, and a C in 2012.

Lee Hamilton, director of the Center on Congress, said the survey is meant to evaluate Congress’ potential.

“Our interest is not to dwell on past shortcomings, but to develop a sense of what areas are most in need of improvement,” he said.

— Tori Fater

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