Congress as Elephant [Article I Initiative]
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Congress as Elephant [Article I Initiative]


Congress may be a different animal than
we thought. In a new paper, Professor Sai Prakash likens Congress to an elephant.
There is an Indian parable of the six blind men and their entertaining
attempts to describe an elephant. Each grasps a particular portion of the
elephant and insists that only his individual description is true. Like an
elephant, our Congress is a massive creature and
the functions it performs are hard to grasp. The paper looks at Congress not
from the narrow perspective of any particular clause or any particular
question or any recent controversy but tries to step back and think about all
the functions that Congress is supposed to be able to perform under the
Constitution by essentially looking at the Constitution and trying to think
about what functions was Congress supposed to serve. Just as the blind men
identifies six parts of the elephant, Congress actually has six roles. Chief
Lawmaker, Secondary Executive, Chief Facilitator and Overseer of the
Magisterial Branches, State Overseer, and Enforcer of Constitutional Rights and
Duties. When we think of Congress, we primarily think they make laws and
that’s certainly true. The Congress from the Articles of Confederation period
onward has had multiple functions. This paper seeks to challenge assumptions we
hold about the role of Congress. This was the chance to step back and not think
about any particular controversy but think about the institution as a whole
and to think about how it differed from its predecessor and
reconsider Congress. Think about the institution afresh. Even members of
Congress might be blind to what kind of animal Congress really is. They might not
realize how much power they have, let alone exercise the power at their
disposal in a thoughtful, deliberate way. How much power did our Founding Fathers
give to Congress? Is Congress more than a ‘first among equals’ relative to other
branches? Get the full picture in Sai Prakash’s new paper, “Congress as Elephant.”

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