I am afraid that this is true:
One interesting aspect of the recent government bailouts has been the complete irrelevance of Congress. The operation and decision-making seems to be run almost entirely by the Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve. Congress appears to lack the ability, the will, and the decisiveness to play any role except spectator, as a handful of senior executive branch officials have nationalized major portions of Wall Street.
I think this is a dangerous trend. Much as we disdain it as a squabblers’ club, Congress is the representative body of the federal government. The weakening of Congress means the weakening of democracy itself.
The last forty years have seen an increasing irrelevance for Congress for several reasons. The emergence of the U.S. as a superpower in a cold war made the executive much more important than it had been in earlier and more peaceful times. The increasing scope of government to include almost every possible activity meant more and more legislation, and in turn that Congressmen could devote less time and study to each particular issue.
Congress itself shares a lot of the blame, however. Since the sixties the Congress has repeatedly shoved the tough issues off onto the courts and the executive. Congress increasingly passes high-minded but vague legislation that leaves the actual decision making to the other branches. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act’s notorious “reasonable accommodation standard” which left it to the courts to decide on a case-by-case basis how much a business had to spend to accommodate disabled customers and employees.
Congress is making itself irrelevant by progressively pushing the real responsibility for the government’s decisions onto the less representative branches. That means that you and I have less and less say in what goes on.