The American Senate: An Insider's History

Oxford University Press
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Winner of the Society for History in the Federal Government's George Pendleton Prize for 2013 The United States Senate has fallen on hard times. Once known as the greatest deliberative body in the world, it now has a reputation as a partisan, dysfunctional chamber. What happened to the house that forged American history's great compromises? In this groundbreaking work, a distinguished journalist and an eminent historian provide an insider's history of the United States Senate. Richard A. Baker, historian emeritus of the Senate, and the late Neil MacNeil, former chief congressional correspondent for Time magazine, integrate nearly a century of combined experience on Capitol Hill with deep research and state-of-the-art scholarship. They explore the Senate's historical evolution with one eye on persistent structural pressures and the other on recent transformations. Here, for example, are the Senate's struggles with the presidency--from George Washington's first, disastrous visit to the chamber on August 22, 1789, through now-forgotten conflicts with Presidents Garfield and Cleveland, to current war powers disputes. The authors also explore the Senate's potent investigative power, and show how it began with an inquiry into John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. It took flight with committees on the conduct of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and World War II; and it gained a high profile with Joseph McCarthy's rampage against communism, Estes Kefauver's organized-crime hearings (the first to be broadcast), and its Watergate investigation. Within the book are surprises as well. For example, the office of majority leader first acquired real power in 1952--not with Lyndon Johnson, but with Republican Robert Taft. Johnson accelerated the trend, tampering with the sacred principle of seniority in order to control issues such as committee assignments. Rampant filibustering, the authors find, was the ironic result of the passage of 1960s civil rights legislation. No longer stigmatized as a white-supremacist tool, its use became routine, especially as the Senate became more partisan in the 1970s. Thoughtful and incisive, The American Senate: An Insider's History transforms our understanding of Congress's upper house.
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About the author

Neil MacNeil, a founding member of the PBS program Washington Week, first began to cover the Senate in 1949, and served as Time magazine's chief congressional correspondent for thirty years. He was also the author of Forge of Democracy: The House of Representatives and Dirksen: Portrait of a Public Man. He died in 2008, as this work was nearing completion. Richard A. Baker was appointed the Senate's first official historian, a post he held from 1975 until his retirement in 2009. He produced a number of historical narratives, including 200 Notable Days: Senate Stories, 1787 to 2002 and Traditions of the United States Senate, and assisted Robert C. Byrd with The Senate, 1789-1989.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
May 31, 2013
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Pages
472
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ISBN
9780199339570
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / American Government / Legislative Branch
Political Science / Political Process / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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A brilliant, authoritative, and fascinating history of America’s most puzzling era, the years 1920 to 1933, when the U.S. Constitution was amended to restrict one of America’s favorite pastimes: drinking alcoholic beverages.

From its start, America has been awash in drink. The sailing vessel that brought John Winthrop to the shores of the New World in 1630 carried more beer than water. By the 1820s, liquor flowed so plentifully it was cheaper than tea. That Americans would ever agree to relinquish their booze was as improbable as it was astonishing.

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