"Congress is an extremely well-designed institution," observed Rep. John D. Dingell at the Ford School event "What's gone so wrong with Congress?" on February 22. "But it's unfortunately run by human beings." Nearly 200 people attended the conversation with Dingell, which was hosted by Ford School professor Richard L. Hall.
Dingell fielded questions from Hall, and audience queries presented by MPP students, on a range of policy issues from the Affordable Care Act to whether gay marriage should be a part of the 2012 DNC platform. He also noted more than once that Congress should try to diffuse partisan bitterness and work across the aisle.
On members' responsiveness to the needs of constituents: "Congress often behaves as if it works for the media."
On special interests: "Everybody, including lobbyists, has a right to be heard. Their input is valuable to the democratic process."
On the current roster of Republican presidential candidates and who might be easiest to work with: "I haven't heard from the Republican ticket that they really want to work with Democrats like me."
Dingell's observations underscored that the role of Congress is to serve the public. Too often, he explained, this mandate gets obscured by such distractions as planning the next campaign for re-election. "There have been very few occasions on which my personal conscience conflicted with what the people wanted. It's made public service easy for me."
Asked about the motivations of pols who misstate facts, the congressman said he believed most politicians try to tell the truth—no matter where they get their information. "But the hardest problem," he continued, "is evaluating the facts and finding out what is right and best to do."
Watch the full video of "What's gone so wrong with Congress?" below.