“Who would spend millions for a job that pays $250k? Parker’s answer will surprise you. Required reading for Congress jocks.”
—Michael C. Munger, Duke University
“A unique and interesting approach to the study of legislators and legislative institutions.”
—David Brady, Stanford University
What would you do if, the very day you were hired, you knew you could be unemployed in as little as two years? You’d seek opportunities in your current job to develop a portfolio of skills and contacts in order to make yourself more attractive to future employers. Representatives and senators think about their jobs in Congress in precisely this way, according to Glenn R. Parker.
While in office, members of Congress plan not merely for the next election but for the next stage of their careers. By networking, serving on committees, and championing particular legislation, they deliberately accumulate human capital—expertise, networks, and reputation—which later gives them advantages on the job market. Parker’s study of the postelective careers of more than 200 former members of Congress who left office during the last half century shows that, in most cases, the human capital these politicians amassed while in office increased their occupational mobility and earning power.
At a moment when Congress is widely viewed as hyper-partisan and dysfunctional, Richard Fenno provides a variegated picture of American representational politics. The Challenge of Congressional Representation offers an up-close-and-personal look at the complex relationship between members of Congress and their constituents back home.When not crafting policy in Washington, the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives are busy assessing and building voter support in their districts. Fenno delves into the activities of five members of the House—Republicans representing Pennsylvania and New York, and Democrats from California, Florida, and Illinois. Spanning the ideological spectrum, these former and current representatives are senior lawmakers and rookie back-benchers from both urban and rural areas. Fenno travels with them in their own political territories, watching and talking with them, conducting interviews, and meeting aides and constituents. He illuminates the all-consuming nature of representational work—the complicated lives of House members shuttling back and forth between home and Capitol, building and maintaining networks, and making compromises. Agreeing to talk on the record without protective anonymity, these elected House members emerge as real personalities, at once praiseworthy and fallible.While voting patterns and policy analysis constitute an important window into the legislative process, the nonquantifiable human element that political scientists so frequently overlook is the essence of negotiation. Fenno focuses our attention on how congressional leaders negotiate with constituents as well as with colleagues.
As the number of women in the U.S. Senate grows, so does the number of citizens represented by women senators. At the same time, gender remains a key factor in senators’ communications to constituents as well as in news media portrayals of senators. Focusing on 32 male and female senators during the 2006 congressional election year, Kim L. Fridkin and Patrick J. Kenney examine in detail senators’ official websites, several thousand press releases and local news stories, and surveys of 18,000 citizens to discern constituents’ attitudes about their senators.
The authors conclude that gender role expectations and stereotypes do indeed constrain representational and campaign messages and influence news coverage of both candidates and elected senators. Further, while citizens appear to be less influenced by entrenched stereotypes, they pay more attention to female senators’ messages and become more knowledgeable about them, in comparison to male senators.
The longest continuous majority in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives came to a dramatic close with the 1994 midterm elections. The Democratic Party had controlled the House for forty years—two and a half times as long as any previous majority. In Cheap Seats, James E. Campbell considers the reasons why the Democrats dominated House elections for four decades and why they ultimately lost that control.
Examining the structural advantages that helped congressional Democrats, Campbell finds that their unprecedented success in the House was due in no small measure to a favorable election system, an advantage in the way in which votes are translated into House seats. His straightforward analysis indicates that Democrats consistently win most of the very-low-turnout districts, or “cheap seats.” In fact, because of the party's continued hold on such districts, the new Democratic minority is considerably larger than it would otherwise have been.
Cheap Seats is a thorough and innovative investigation into the electoral system's impact on partisan politics and representation in Congress. Campbell presents an impressive array of evidence, including both quantitative analysis of election returns from 1936 to 1994 and in-depth studies of several cheap-seat districts. He also explores the important theoretical issues of representation that cheap seats raise and offers several proposals to reform the system. This well-written and provocative volume is accessible to anyone interested in American politics, in addition to scholars especially interested in the areas of Congress, elections, electoral systems, and political parties.
Carter and Scott combine extensive quantitative analysis, interviews with members of Congress and their staff, and case studies of key foreign policy entrepreneurs, including Frank Church, William Fulbright, Jesse Helms, Edward Kennedy, Pat McCarran, and Curt Weldon. Drawing on their empirical data, the authors identify the key variables in foreign policy entrepreneurship, including membership in the Senate or House, seniority and committee assignments, majority or minority party status, choice of foreign policy issues, and the means used to influence policy. By illuminating the roles and impact of individual members of Congress, Carter and Scott contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the broader U.S. foreign policy-making process.
For three years while serving as a senior adviser to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce—one of the most powerful committees in Congress—Bruce C. Wolpe kept a diary, a senior staffer’s look at how committees develop and promote legislation. With its insider’s view of the rough-and-tumble politics of cap-and-trade, healthcare reform, tobacco, oversight, and the debt ceiling agreement, The Committee uniquely melds the art of politics and policymaking with the theory and literature of political science. The authors engage with the important questions that political science asks about committee power, partisanship, and the strategies used to build winning policy coalitions both in the Committee and on the floor of the House. In this new edition, the authors revisit the relationship between the executive and Congress in the wake of the sweeping changes wrought by the Trump administration, as well as thoughts about how that relationship will change again as President Biden faces a 117th Congress that is strikingly similar to Obama’s 111th. The insider politics and strategies about moving legislation in Congress, from internal and external coalition building to a chairman’s role in framing policy narratives, will captivate both novice and die-hard readers of politics.
During the height of the civil rights movement, Blacks were among the most liberal Americans. Since the 1970s, however, increasing representation in national, state, and local government has brought about a more centrist outlook among Black political leaders.
Focusing on the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Katherine Tate studies the ways in which the nation’s most prominent group of Black legislators has developed politically. Organized in 1971, the CBC set out to increase the influence of Black legislators. Indeed, over the past four decades, they have made progress toward the goal of becoming recognized players within Congress. And yet, Tate argues, their incorporation is transforming their policy preferences. Since the Clinton Administration, CBC members—the majority of whom are Democrats—have been less willing to oppose openly congressional party leaders and both Republican and Democratic presidents. Tate documents this transformation with a statistical analysis of Black roll-call votes, using the important Poole-Rosenthal scores from 1977 to 2010. While growing partisanship has affected Congress as a whole, not just minority caucuses, Tate warns that incorporation may mute the independent voice of Black political leaders.
Several contributors offer wide-ranging accounts of the workings of Congress. They look at lawmakers’ attitudes toward Congress’s role as a constitutional interpreter, the offices within Congress that help lawmakers learn about constitutional issues, Congress’s willingness to use its confirmation power to shape constitutional decisions by both the executive and the courts, and the frequency with which congressional committees take constitutional questions into account. Other contributors address congressional deliberation, paying particular attention to whether Congress’s constitutional interpretations are sound. Still others examine how Congress and the courts should respond to one another’s decisions, suggesting how the courts should evaluate Congress’s work and considering how lawmakers respond to Court decisions that strike down federal legislation. While some essayists are inclined to evaluate Congress’s constitutional interpretation positively, others argue that it could be improved and suggest institutional and procedural reforms toward that end. Whatever their conclusions, all of the essays underscore the pervasive and crucial role that Congress plays in shaping the meaning of the Constitution.
Contributors. David P. Currie, Neal Devins, William N. Eskridge Jr.. John Ferejohn, Louis Fisher, Elizabeth Garrett, Michael J. Gerhardt, Michael J. Klarman, Bruce G. Peabody, J. Mitchell Pickerill, Barbara Sinclair, Mark Tushnet, Adrian Vermeule, Keith E. Whittington, John C. Yoo
Congressional supervision of the way the executive implements legislative mandates-“oversight” of the bureaucracy-is one of the most complex and least understood functions of Congress. In this book, Morris Ogul clarifies the meaning of oversight and analyzes the elements that contribute to its success or neglect.
Ogul's work is based on case studies from nearly one hundred interviews with congressmen, committee staff members, lobbyists, and members of the executive branch., as well as an examination of relevant congressional documents.
Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) claim to advocate minority political interests, yet they disagree over the intent and scope of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), as well as the interpretation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Whereas the Court promotes color-blind policies, the CBC advocates race-based remedies. Setting this debate in the context of the history of black political thought, Rivers examines a series of high-profile districting cases, from Rodgers v. Lodge (1982) through NAMUDNO v. Holder (2009). She evaluates the competing approaches to racial equality and concludes, surprisingly, that an originalist, race-conscious interpretation of the 14th Amendment, along with a revised states' rights position regarding electoral districting, may better serve minority political interests.
Close competition for majority party control of the U.S. House of Representatives has transformed the congressional parties from legislative coalitions into partisan fundraising machines. With the need for ever increasing sums of money to fuel the ongoing campaign for majority control, both Republicans and Democrats have made large donations to the party and its candidates mandatory for members seeking advancement within party and congressional committee hierarchies.
Eric S. Heberlig and Bruce A. Larson not only analyze this development, but also discuss its implications for American government and democracy. They address the consequences of selecting congressional leaders on the basis of their fundraising skills rather than their legislative capacity and the extent to which the battle for majority control leads Congress to prioritize short-term electoral gains over long-term governing and problem-solving.
Ronald Reagan's election in 1980 brought with it a major shift in the composition of the U.S. Congress for the first time in several decades. The subsequent introduction of an enormous amount of new legislation sparked debate among many political observers that a new coalition was being built in American politics and that a significant change in the issues on the agenda before Congress heralded a Republican realignment.
Barbara Sinclair's study is a major contribution to our understanding of realignment politics in the House of Representatives. It also provides important insight into the changes in American political life in the late twentieth century.
Congressional Realignment poses three basic, related questions: What are the sources of agenda change? What determines congressional voting alignments and alignment change? Under what conditions are the barriers to major policy change overcome? Sinclair's answers are impressive both in their scholarship and in the depth and intelligence of her insights.
Pickerill combines legislative histories, extensive empirical findings, and interviews with current and former members of Congress, congressional staff, and others. He examines data related to all of the federal legislation struck down by the Supreme Court from the beginning of the Warren Court in 1953 through the 1996–97 term of the Rehnquist Court. By looking at the legislative histories of Congressional acts that invoked the Commerce Clause and presented Tenth Amendment conflicts—such as the Child Labor Act (1916), the Civil Rights Act (1965), the Gun-Free School Zones Act (1990), and the Brady Bill (1994)—Pickerill illuminates how Congressional deliberation over newly proposed legislation is shaped by the possibility of judicial review. The Court’s invalidation of the Gun-Free School Zones Act in its 1995 ruling United States v. Lopez signaled an increased judicial activism regarding issues of federalism. Pickerill examines that case and compares congressional debate over constitutional issues in key pieces of legislation that preceded and followed it: the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1997. He shows that Congressional attention to federalism increased in the 1990s along with the Court’s greater scrutiny.
This deeply moving story chronicles the tenacity and vision that carried Carl Elliott from the hills of northwest Alabama to eight distinguished terms in the United States House of Representatives.
Born in a log cabin on a tenant farm in 1913, Carl Elliott worked his way through The University of Alabama during the Great Depression and was elected to Congress in 1948. With a no-nonsense philosophy of fairness and equal opportunity, he established himself as one of the most effective members of the House of Representatives during the 1950s. He was a progressive Democrat and he fought hard for the dirt farmers and coal miners he grew up with and who sent him to Congress.
In an era when racial segregationists dominated southern politics, Elliott worked with many of the important political leaders of the 20th century, including Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy and powerful House Speaker Sam Rayburn. He was instrumental in passing the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which continues to provide college loans to more than 20 million Americans. But his brave stand against racism and George Wallace in the 1966 Alabama gubernatorial race ruined him professionally (he never returned to elected office) and financially (he cashed in his congressional pension to help fund the campaign). Even as a destitute invalid in his old age, however, Elliott kept his dignity and integrity intact.
The life story of Carl Elliott is full of humor and wry wisdom and explains how he made his way across a stage as big as America, influencing its politics and future, and then emerged, belatedly, as an unsung hero of the fight for civil rights and equality.
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