United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States of America, consisting of two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Both senators and representatives are chosen through direct election.
- The House is composed of very good men, not shining, but honest and reasonably well-informed, and in time they will be found to improve, and not to be much inferior in eloquence, science, and dignity, to the British Commons. They are patriotic enough, and I believe there are more stupid (as well as more shining) people in the latter, in proportion.
- Fisher Ames, letter to George Richard Minot (May 27, 1789); reported in Works of Fisher Ames (1854), ed. Seth Ames, vol. 1, p. 45.
- You send me to Washington to represent you in the senate. But you do not send me there because you are interested in grave questions of national or international policy. When I come back to Arizona, you never ask me any questions about such policies; instead you ask me: “What about my pension?” or “What about that job for my son?” I am not in Washington as a statesman. I am there as a very well paid messenger boy doing your errands. My chief occupation is going around with a forked stick picking up little fragments of patronage for my constituents.
- Henry Fountain Ashurst, reported in Thomas C. Donnelly, Rocky Mountain Politics (1940), p. 283; reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
- He votes as a Southern man, and votes sectionally; I am also a Southern man, but vote nationally on national questions.
- REPRESENTATIVE, n. In national politics, a member of the Lower House in this world, and without discernible hope of promotion in the next.
- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
- I never know what South Carolina thinks of a measure. I never consult her. I act to the best of my judgment, and according to my conscience. If she approves, well and good. If she does not, or wishes any one to take my place, I am ready to vacate. We are even.
- John C. Calhoun, reported in Walter J. Miller, "Calhoun as a Lawyer and Statesman"' part 2, The Green Bag (June 1899), p. 271. Miller states "I will cite his own words", but this quotation is reported as not verified in Calhoun's writings in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
- Congress seems drugged and inert most of the time. Even when the problems it ignores build up to crises and erupt in strikes, riots, and demonstrations, it has not moved. Its idea of meeting a problem is to hold hearings or, in extreme cases, to appoint a commission.
- Shirley Chisholm, Unbought and Unbossed (1970), p. 104.
- A few years ago Gen. Francis Marion Cockrell, for thirty consecutive years a prominent Senator from Missouri, denominated the United States Senate as “the greatest legislative body in the world,” whereupon Senator John C. Spooner, of Wisconsin, an eminent constitutional lawyer and considerable of a wit, said: “The Senate is not the greatest legislative body in the world. It is one of the branches of, I think, perhaps the greatest legislative body in the world, and the Senate may be the greatest part of the greatest legislative body in the world. I am not disposed to dispute that. We all admit that ourselves.”
- Champ Clark, My Quarter Century of American Politics, vol. 1, p. 190 (1920). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
- The truth is being more and more realized by the public that, other things being equal or anywhere near equal, the value of the Representative or Senator increases in proportion to his length of service. A man must learn to be a Representative or Senator, just as he must learn to be a farmer, carpenter, blacksmith, merchant, engineer, lawyer, doctor, preacher, teacher, or anything else. Of course some men learn quicker than others—some of exceptional ability and powers of observation very speedily, and some not at all. The best plan for a constituency to pursue is to select a man of good sense, good habits, and perfect integrity, young enough to learn, and re-elect him so long as he retains his faculties and is faithful to his trust. Such a man grows into power and high position as surely as the sparks fly upward. As a rule, in both House and Senate, the best places go to men of long service, provided they are capable, sober, industrious, vigilant, and punctual in the discharge of their duties. No man should be sent to either House of Congress solely to gratify his own ambition, but because he has qualifications for the position which he seeks—indeed, better qualifications than any of his opponents.
- Champ Clark, My Quarter Century of American Politics, vol. 1, p. 220 (1920).
- There is a tradition that, on his return from France, Jefferson called Washington to account at the breakfast-table for having agreed to a second chamber. "Why," asked Washington, "did you pour that coffee into your saucer?" "To cool it," quoth Jefferson. "Even so," said Washington, "we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it."
- Moncure Daniel Conway, Omitted Chapters of History Disclosed in the Life and Papers of Edmund Randolph (1888), p. 91. Reported as probably apocryphal in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
- I am now here in Congress... I am at liberty to vote as my conscience and judgment dictates to be right, without the yoke of any party on me, or the driver at my heels, with his whip in hand, commanding me to ge-wo-haw, just at his pleasure. Look at my arms, you will find no party hand-cuff on them!
- Davy Crockett, letter (28 January 1834), reported in A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett (1834), p. 113, final paragraph.
- Too often critics seem more intent on seeking new ways to alter Congress than to truly learn how it functions. They might well profit from the advice of Thomas Huxley, who said a century ago: "Sit down before facts as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion — or you shall learn nothing."
- Gerald Ford, Address at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (3 November 1966); published in Gerald R. Ford,Selected Speeches (1973) edited by Michael V. Doyle
- I know well the coequal role of the Congress in our constitutional process. I love the House of Representatives. I revere the traditions of the Senate despite my too-short internship in that great body. As President, within the limits of basic principles, my motto toward the Congress is communication, conciliation, compromise, and cooperation.
- Gerald Ford, Address to a joint session of Congress (August 12, 1974); in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Gerald R. Ford, 1974, pp. 6–7.
- Congress is, after all, not a body of laymen unfamiliar with the commonplaces of our law. This legislation was the formulation of the two Judiciary Committees, all of whom are lawyers, and the Congress is predominately a lawyers' body.
- Felix Frankfurter, Callanan v. United States, 364 U.S. 587, 594 (1961).
- Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.
- Two generations ago, Gladstone called the Senate of the United States "that remarkable body, the most remarkable of all the inventions of modern politics".
- George Henry Haynes, The Senate of the United States, Its History and Practice (1938), Preface, p. vii. The attribution to William E. Gladstone is reported as unverified by Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
- We are supporting Saudi Arabia while they inflict unthinkable human rights violations on the Yemeni people. Congress must do its job and stop providing military support and arm sales to the Saudi government.
- Congress is so strange. A man gets up to speak and says nothing. Nobody listens—and then everybody disagrees.
- On June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War, the Israeli military attacked the USS Liberty, an American spy ship which had been monitoring Israeli transmissions about the conflict. Intercepted Israeli communications indicated that the goal was to sink the Liberty and leave no survivors.
Warplanes and torpedo boats had already killed 34 and wounded 174, when Halbardier slid over the Liberty’s napalm-glazed deck to jury-rig an antenna and get an SOS off to the Sixth Fleet. The Israelis intercepted the SOS and broke off the attack immediately. In effect, Halbardier prevented the massacre of all 294 onboard. Still, the infamy of the attack on the Liberty was two-fold.
First, the Liberty, a virtually defenseless intelligence collection platform prominently flying an American flag in international waters, came under deliberate attack by Israeli aircraft and three 60-ton Israeli torpedo boats off the coast of the Sinai on a cloudless June afternoon during the six-day Israeli-Arab war. Second, President Lyndon Johnson called back carrier aircraft dispatched to defend the Liberty lest Israel be embarrassed, the start of an unconscionable cover-up, including top Navy brass, that persists to this day.
Does all this have relevance today? Of course. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands that there is little that Israel could do that would earn the opprobrium of the U.S. Congress or retaliation from the White House, whether it’s building illegal settlements or slaughtering civilians in Gaza. The Israelis seem convinced they remain in the catbird’s seat, largely because of the Israel Lobby’s influence with U.S. lawmakers and opinion makers.
- Right now Freshman members of Congress are at a “Bipartisan” orientation w/ briefings on issues. Invited panelists offer insights to inform new Congressmembers‘ views as they prepare to legislate. # of Corporate CEOs we’ve listened to here: 4; # of Labor leaders: 0
- Our “bipartisan” Congressional orientation is cohosted by a corporate lobbyist group. Other members have quietly expressed to me their concern that this wasn’t told to us in advance. Lobbyists are here. Goldman Sachs is here. Where‘s labor? Activists? Frontline community leaders?
- The age difference between myself (29) + oldest House members is ~60 yrs. For better or worse, young people will live in the world Congress leaves behind. That’s why I focus on our future: addressing climate change & runaway income inequality, ending school-to-prison pipelines, etc.
- Congress is so strange. A man gets up to speak and says nothing. Nobody listens. And when he sits down, everybody disagrees.
- Attributed to Russian actor Boris Marshalov after visiting the House of Representatives
- Fuller, Edmund (1942). Thesaurus of Anecdotes. Crown Publishers. p. 343.
- Young, Roland (1943). This Is Congress. A. A. Knopf. p. 158.
- Attributed to Will Rogers
- Attributed to Russian actor Boris Marshalov after visiting the House of Representatives
- Average Americans have little or no influence over the making of U.S. government policy. ... Wealthy Americans wield a lot of influence. By investing money in politics, they can turn economic power into political power.
- I take the view that equality is equality … and that I am a member of Congress as good as anybody else. As long as it is within the law, it's not wrong... If the law is wrong, change the law.
I do not do any more than any other member of the Congress, but by the Grace of God, I'll not do less!
- Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., press conference and subsequent interview (February 20, 1963); reported in Neil Hickey and Ed Edwin, Adam Clayton Powell and the Politics of Race (1965), p. 230–31.
- Papers say: "Congress is deadlocked and can't act." I think that is the greatest blessing that could befall this country.
- Will Rogers, Weekly Article #59, 1924-01-27
- I could study all my life and not think up half the amount of funny things they can think of in one Session of Congress.
- Will Rogers, in Will Rogers' Weekly Articles: The Coolidge Years, 1925-1927 (1981), p. 8.
- This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.
- Will Rogers, Daily Telegram #1230, Congress Session, Rogers Says, Is Like Baby Getting A Hammer (4 July 1930)
- So when all the yielding and objections is over, the other Senator said, "I object to the remarks of a professional joker being put into the Congressional Record." Taking a dig at me, see? They didn't want any outside fellow contributing. Well, he had me wrong. Compared to them I'm an amateur, and the thing about my jokes is that they don't hurt anybody. You can say they're not funny or they're terrible or they're good or whatever it is, but they don't do no harm. But with Congress — every time they make a joke it's a law. And every time they make a law it's a joke.
- Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate; now what's going to happen to us with both a Senate and a House?
- Will Rogers, as quoted in Dreams Come Due : Government and Economics as If Freedom Mattered (1986) by John Galt, p. 235
- The rest of the people know the condition of the country, for they live in it, but Congress has no idea what is going on in America, so the President has to tell 'em.
- Will Rogers as quoted in Defending Liars : In Defense of President Bush and the War on Terror in Iraq (2006) by Howard L. Salter, p. 40
- And kid Congress and the Senate, don't scold 'em. They are just children thats never grown up. They don't like to be corrected in company. Don't send messages to 'em, send candy.
- I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace, that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a congress.
- To my mind Judas Iscariot was nothing but a low, mean, premature Congressman.
- Mark Twain, letter to the editor, New-York Daily Tribune (March 7, 1873, published March 10, 1873), p. 5.
- A jay hasn’t got any more principle than a Congressman. A jay will lie, a jay will steal, a jay will deceive, a jay will betray; and four times out of five, a jay will go back on his solemnest promise.
- Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1879, reprinted 1968), vol. 1 (vol. 3 of The Writings of Mark Twain), chapter 2, pp. 25–26.
- It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.
- Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897), vol. 1 (vol. 5 of The Writings of Mark Twain), chapter 8, epigraph, p. 98.
- I think I can say, and say with pride, that we have legislatures that bring higher prices than any in the world.
- Mark Twain, reported in Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips (1948), p. 364.
- Suppose you were a member of Congress. And suppose you were an idiot. But I repeat myself.
- Mark Twain, draft manuscript (c.1881), quoted by Albert Bigelow Paine in Mark Twain: A Biography (1912).
- We have been taught to regard a representative of the people as a sentinel on the watch-tower of liberty.
- Daniel Webster, remarks in the Senate (May 7, 1834); reported in The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (1903), volume 7, p. 121.
- All I've done since I've been in Washington has been to sit around and try to look wise, and that's what any man has to do who isn't willing to barter his convictions for political expediency. ... No man who wants to be intellectually honest has any business in Congress.
- Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee-rooms is Congress at work.
- Woodrow Wilson, Congressional Government, A Study in American Politics (1885; republished 1981), chapter 2, p. 69 (1981).
- Since pro means the opposite of con, can you give me an illustration? Progress and Congress.
- Reported in Louis Untermeyer, A Treasury of Laughter (1946), p. 655. Variously reported in other phrasings, such as, "If pro is the opposite of con, then isn't progress the opposite of congress?"
- During the American Revolution, George Washington used to call out for "beef, beef, beef," but the Continental Congress called out for "pork, pork, pork."
- Reported in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989) as a comment quoted by Representative Clarence Cannon.
- One of the standing jokes of Congress is that the new Congressman always spends the first week wondering how he got there and the rest of the time wondering how the other members got there.
- Reported in the Saturday Evening Post (November 4, 1899), p. 356.
- The best legislator is the one who votes for all appropriations and against all taxes.
- Walter P. Brownlow; reported by his cousin, Louis B. Brownlow. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
- One of the countless drawbacks of being in Congress is that I am compelled to receive impertinent letters from a jackass like you in which you say I promised to have the Sierra Madre mountains reforested and I have been in Congress two months and haven't done it. Will you please take two running jumps and go to hell.