Congress for many years has ranked low in public esteem—joining journalists, bankers, and union leaders at the bottom of polls. And in recent years there's been good reason for the public disregard, with the rise of hyper-partisanship and the increasing inability of Congress to carry out its required duties, such as passing spending bills on time and conducting responsible oversight of the executive branch.
Congress seems so dysfunctional that many observers have all but thrown up their hands in despair, suggesting that an apparently broken U.S. political system might need to be replaced.
Now, some of the country's foremost experts on Congress are reminding us that tough hyper-partisan conflict always has been a hallmark of the constitutional system. Going back to the nation's early decades, Congress has experienced periods of division and turmoil. But even in those periods Congress has been able to engage in serious deliberation, prevent ill-considered proposals from becoming law—and, over time, help develop a deeper, more lasting national consensus.
The ten chapters in this volume focus on how Congress in the twenty-first century can once again fulfill its proper functions of representation, deliberation, legislation, and oversight. The authors offer a series of practical reforms that would maintain, rather than replace, the constitutional separation of powers that has served the nation well for more than 200 years.
William F. Connelly, Jr., is the John K. Boardman Politics Professor at Washington and Lee University. He is also founder and director of the university’s Washington Term Program.
John J. Pitney, Jr., is Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College. He previously served on the staff of Senator Alfonse D’Amato (R-NY) and the House Republican Policy Committee.
Gary J. Schmitt is resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where he directs the Program on American Citizenship. He previously served as the Democratic staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and executive director of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
The House and Senate have unique rules and procedures to determine how legislation moves from a policy idea to law. Evolved over the last 200 years, the rules of both chambers are designed to act as the engine for that process. Each legislative body has its own leadership positions to oversee this legislative process.
To the novice, whether a newly elected representative, a lawmaker’s staff on her first day at work, or a constituent visiting Washington, the entire process can seem incomprehensible. What is an open rule for a House Appropriations bill and how does it affect consideration? Why are unanimous consent agreements needed in the Senate?
The authors of Inside Congress, all congressional veterans, have written the definitive guide to how Congress really works. It is the accessible and necessary resource to understanding and interpreting procedural tools, arcane precedents, and the role of party politics in the making of legislation in Congress.
Constitutional scholars have long debated whether the American political system, which was so influenced by the thinking of James Madison, has in fact grown outmoded. But if Madison himself could peer at the present, what would he think of the state of key political institutions that he helped originate and the government policies that they produce? In What Would Madison Do?, ten prominent scholars explore the contemporary performance of Madison's constitutional legacy and how much would have surprised him.
1. Introduction: Perspectives on Madison's Legacy for Contemporary American Politics, Pietro S. Nivola and Benjamin Wittes
2. Mr. Madison's Communion Suit: Implementation-Group Liberalism and the Case for Constitutional Reform, John J. DiIulio Jr.
3. Constitutional Surprises: What James Madison Got Wrong, William A. Galston
4. Overcoming the Great Recession: How Madison's "Horse and Buggy" Managed, Pietro S. Nivola
5. Gridlock and the Madisonian Constitution, R. Shep Melnick