The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track

Oxford University Press
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Congress is the first branch of government in the American system, write Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, but now it is a broken branch, damaged by partisan bickering and internal rancor. The Broken Branch offers both a brilliant diagnosis of the cause of Congressional decline and a much-needed blueprint for change, from two experts who understand politics and revere our institutions, but believe that Congress has become deeply dysfunctional. Mann and Ornstein, two of the nations most renowned and judicious scholars of government and politics, bring to light the historical roots of Congress's current maladies, examining 40 years of uninterrupted Democratic control of the House and the stunning midterm election victory of 1994 that propelled Republicans into the majority in both House and Senate. The byproduct of that long and grueling but ultimately successful Republican campaign, the authors reveal, was a weakened institution bitterly divided between the parties. They highlight the dramatic shift in Congress from a highly decentralized, committee-based institution into a much more regimented one in which party increasingly trumps committee. The resultant changes in the policy process--the demise of regular order, the decline of deliberation, and the weakening of our system of checks and balances--have all compromised the role of Congress in the American Constitutional system. Indeed, Speaker Dennis Hastert has unabashedly stated that his primary responsibility is to pass the president's legislative program--identifying himself more as a lieutenant of the president than a steward of the house. From tax cuts to the war against Saddam Hussein to a Medicare prescription drug benefit, the legislative process has been bent to serve immediate presidential interests and have often resulted in poorly crafted and stealthily passed laws. Strong majority leadership in Congress, the authors conclude, led not to a vigorous exertion of congressional authority but to a general passivity in the face of executive power. A vivid portrait of an institution that has fallen far from the aspirations of our Founding Fathers, The Broken Branch highlights the costs of a malfunctioning Congress to national policymaking, and outlines what must be done to repair the damage.
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About the author

Thomas E. Mann is the W. Averell Harriman Chair and Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. The author of numerous books on American government, and a contributor to major magazines and newspapers like Washington Post and New York Times, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Mann has served as co-director (with Ornstein) of the Transition to Governing Project and senior counselor (with Ornstein) to the Continuity of Government Commission. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland. Norman J. Ornstein is a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. An election analyst for CBS News, he writes a weekly column called "Congress Inside Out" for Roll Call. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Affairs, and he appears regularly on television programs like The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Nightline, and Charlie Rose. He serves on the board of the Public Broadcasting Service and several other nonprofit groups. Like Mann, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Thomas E. Mann is the W. Averell Harriman Chair and Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. The author of numerous books on American government, and a contributor to major magazines and newspapers like Washington Post and New York Times, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Mann has served as co-director (with Ornstein) of the Transition to Governing Project and senior counselor (with Ornstein) to the Continuity of Government Commission. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland. Norman J. Ornstein is a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. An election analyst for CBS News, he writes a weekly column called "Congress Inside Out" for Roll Call. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Affairs, and he appears regularly on television programs like The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Nightline, and Charlie Rose. He serves on the board of the Public Broadcasting Service and several other nonprofit groups. Like Mann, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Aug 1, 2006
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780199839803
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / 21st Century
Political Science / Political Process / Political Advocacy
Political Science / Propaganda
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In 2002 Congress enacted the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), the first major revision of federal campaign finance law in a generation. In March 2001, after a fiercely contested and highly divisive seven-year partisan legislative battle, the Senate passed S. 27, known as the McCain-Feingold legislation. The House responded by passing H.R. 2356, companion legislation known as Shays-Meehan, in February 2002. The Senate then approved the House-passed version, and President George W. Bush signed BCRA into law on March 27, 2002, stating that the bill had "flaws" but overall "improves the current system of financing for federal campaigns." The Reform Act was taken to court within hours of the President's signature. Dozens of interest groups and lawmakers who had opposed passage of the Act in Congress lodged complaints that challenged the constitutionality of virtually every aspect of the new law. Following review by a special three-judge panel, the case is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003. This litigation constitutes the most important campaign finance case since the Supreme Court issued its decision in Buckley v. Valeo more than twenty-five years ago. The testimony, submitted by some of the country's most knowledgeable political scientists and most experienced politicians, constitutes an invaluable body of knowledge about the complexities of campaign finance and the role of money in our political system. Unfortunately, only the lawyers, political scientists, and practitioners actually involved in the litigation have seen most of this writing—until now. Ins ide the Campaign Finance Battle makes key testimony in this historic case available to a general readership, in the process shedding new light on campaign finance practices central to the congressional debate on the reform act and to the landmark litigation challenging its constitutionality.
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