There may actually be a reason why a lot of the freshmen members of the House seem not to understand the legislative process.
David Bernstein notes:
only 16 of the 83 newly-elected Republican members of congress [attended] the Congressional Issues Conference of the Institute of Politics (IOP) at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
That conference is completely non-partisan (in fact, co-sponsored by the Heritage Foundation), and serves to give the Washington newcomers a crash course in, essentially, how to be a member of congress — the rules, procedures, and resources, as well as the current policy debates. Usually a majority of freshmen come; Boehner did.
More from from a piece that Bernstein wrote for the Boston Phoenix:
Since the early 1970s, the IOP has held a Congressional Issues Conference for newly-elected members of Congress. The soon-to-be congressmen spend three days attending policy seminars and workshops on the actual workings of Congress and the Capitol. Past attendees have included Al Gore (’76), Geraldine Ferraro (’78), Bill Richardson (’82), Dennis Hastert (’86), and Rahm Emanuel (’02).
The Kennedy School conference is among the most prestigious events for congressional freshmen, and in most years it has drawn more than half of the incoming freshman class. This year, with a massive 93 newcomers invited, barely a quarter made the trip to Cambridge for this week’s gathering. More than five dozen declined the invitation.
In a separate post, Bernstein also details how a variety of factors may have created incentives for new members to attend more ideologically driven orientation in lieu of going to the IOP meeting.*
Now, I don’t want to make too much of this, but it does seem to fit with the general theme of the current Congress, especially of the House freshman. That is: what matters is one’s true belief in the Way Things Ought to Be as opposed to the reality of give and take of governing.
*I recall, for example, an orientation that Representative Bachmann held, which may have been in the same timeframe, that included speakers who were of a very specific ideological persuasion (i.e., Tea Party palatable) regarding the meaning of the Constitution.