he House ofRepresentatives is a complex leg-islative institution that was designed by theFounders to be the “people’s branch” ofthefederal Congress. Until 1913, only Housemembers were directly elected by the people; their coun-terparts in the Senate were elected by the state legislatures.The Seventeenth Amendment erased this distinction between the two branches by providing for popular elec-tion ofsenators. In keeping with the notion ofdirect rep-resentation on which the House was founded, the countryis divided into geographical districts ofroughly equal pop-ulation, and each district is allotted one House represen-tative to do its bidding in Washington.The U.S. Constitution stipulates that House membersmust face reelection every two years. The voters, then,have ample opportunity to throw members out ofofﬁceshould they stray too far from their constituents’ desires.Keeping in mind their short term, members ofthe Housestay well tuned to voters’ concerns.The two main jobs ofmembers ofCongress are to rep-resent their constituents and to pass legislation. These twotasks, which are dependent on each other, often come intoconﬂict, forcing legislators to choose between satisfying their constituents, their own conscience, their party, theirstate, their delegation, their region, and, perhaps, theirpresident. In order to represent their constituents, mem- bers ofCongress must pass or block legislation that willhelp or harm their districts. Yet in order to pass legislationthat is good for the nation they must sometimes forsakethe very same constituents who put them in ofﬁce. A couple ofexamples illustrate this point. Elected asa Democrat in 1992 to the Thirteenth CongressionalDistrict in Pennsylvania, a district that had elected Re-publicans for the previous seventy-six years, newcomerMarjorie Margolis-Mezvinsky faced a daunting challengeduring her ﬁrst year in Congress. That year, President BillClinton’s deﬁcit reduction plan, the ﬁrst crucial piece of legislation debated in his presidency, came up for a vote.The president’s budget plan had already passed the Sen-ate by one vote, with Vice President Al Gore casting thedeciding vote. In the House, the Clinton team needed onemore vote to pass the bill and the responsibility for thatﬁnal vote fell on Margolis-Mezvinsky. As part ofher 1992election campaign, Margolis-Mezvinsky had promised herconstituents that she would not raise their taxes, but,unfortunately for her, Clinton’s deﬁcit reduction packagedid just that. Ifshe voted for the bill she would break herpromise to her constituents and was certain to lose her bidfor reelection the next year. Ifshe voted against the billshe was turning her back on her party, her president, andwhat she felt was best for the nation. In the end, Margolis-Mezvinsky chose to vote with the president. Predictably,she was not reelected in 1994.More recently, Republican James Rogan was elected in1996 to represent the people ofthe Twenty-seventh Con-gressional District ofCalifornia. In this district, which ishome to NBC Studios, Disney headquarters, and a varietyofsmaller entertainment businesses,
Democrats out-numbered Republicans by about 44 percent to 37 percentand were generally favorable toward President Clinton.
The district favored Clinton by an eight-percentage-pointmargin in both the 1992 and 1996 elections. In 1998,Rogan, who served on the House Judiciary Committee,played an active role in the impeachment proceedingsagainst President Clinton. He even served as one oftheHouse impeachment managers. As the impeachment pro-ceedings unfolded, Rogan became one ofthe most vocalcritics ofClinton, advocating the president’s removal fromofﬁce. In the 2000 elections, Rogan was challenged for hisseat by Democrat Adam Schiffwho claimed that Roganwas “an extremist out oftouch with his district.”
During the race, Rogan acknowledged that his impeachment activ-
The Legislative Process oftheU.S. House ofRepresentatives