War Stories from Capitol Hill

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2003-08-13
  • Publisher: Pearson
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An insider account of how Congress works, this book contains insightful first person reminisces, from former congressional fellows and staffers, about the ins and outs and dos and don'ts of everyday life on Capitol Hill. Each reader-friendly essay focuses on one or more aspects of congressional controversy experienced by the writer, and places the "story" in the broader historical and conceptual framework necessary for understanding how Congress and its members function.These detailed case studies offer a dynamic view of Congress and show how members of Congress balance the demands of constituents, lobbyists, congressional leaders, protesters, and their own consciences when making national policy. Coverage of a wide variety of congressional processes discusses private constituent meetings, speeches, committee hearings and markups, leadership strategy sessions, and the complex web of rules that govern legislative procedures on the floor of the House and the Senate.For anyone interested in national politics, insights from key players in the political system, and a cutting edge perspective of Congress.

Author Biography

COLTON C. CAMPBELL is associate professor of political science at Florida International University. He is author of Discharging Congress: Government by Commission, coauthor of Impeaching Clinton: Partisan Strife on Capitol Hill, and coeditor of numerous books, most recently Congress and the Internet. He served as an APSA congressional fellow in the office of Senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.).

PAUL S. HERRNSON is director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship and professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland. He is author of Congressional Elections: Campaigning at Home and in Washington and Party Campaigning in the 1980s, as well as editor and coeditor of numerous books, including Playing Hardball: Campaigning for the U.S. Congress; After the Revolution: PACs, Lobbies, and the Republican Congress; and Responsible Partisanship? The Evolution of American Political Parties since 1950. He served as an APSA Steiger congressional fellow in the office of Representative David E. Price (D-N.C.).

Table of Contents

Government Is Not Physics and Congress Is Not a Supercomputer
Speaker Foley and the War against Term Limits
The Race for Majority Leader
Crafting a Partisan Agenda
Unorthodox and Unusual Lawmaking: Juvenile Justice Bills after Columbine
A Difficult Habit to Kick: The Defeat of the Universal Tobacco Settlement Act
Seeking to Institutionalize a Partisan Electoral Advantage: The Battle over the Census
Lessons from the Battlefield
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.


War Stories from Capitol Hillpresents insiders'' accounts of how Congress works. It covers the parliamentary maneuvers, plots, counterplots, lively debates, triumphs, and dedication involved in making something happen on Capitol Hill. It includes a collection of original essays written by individuals who have worked for the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate, and who are familiar with the personalities, conflict, compromise, creativity, and persistence that embody congressional politics. The essays illustrate the enduring topics essential to understanding Capitol Hill. Each essay focuses on one or more aspects of congressional controversy experienced by the writer, and places the "story" in a broader historical and conceptual framework necessary for understanding how Congress and its members function. The chapters tie the authors'' insightful first-person experiences with the ins and outs of everyday legislative life to broader themes of congressional politics. Some essays combine quantitative data analysis with descriptions and examples drawn from real politics, as is consistent with the style of other books written for the Real Politics in Americaseries. Contemporary political science scholarship lays a firm foundation for comprehending how the institution of Congress operates and why lawmakers reach the decisions they do, but it could be more successful in presenting this information to students and the general public. Results generated from formal models, statistical analyses, case studies, and systematic comparisons--the basic tools of the discipline--are not always accessible to practitioners or the general reader. In Congress, it is not always possible to construct a purely rational decision-making process for any but the simplest, lowest-level decisions. What makes the legislative process so hard to simplify is that there is often an elaborate maze of subtleties to be sorted out and disparate goals to be weighed. A perspective that reduces congressional structure and decision making solely to the calculation of optimal means may disregard much of the political process in Congress. There are occasions when lawmaking involves networks of personal relationships among actors with a range of goals and motives, behind-the-scenes maneuvering and informal arrangements, and accumulated practice that is not always captured by rigid theoretical frameworks. Often the best way to start examining Congress and its operations is to recognize former House Speaker Thomas P "Tip" O''Neill''s insight: Politics is an art. In short, real politics matters. The chapters that follow bridge the gap between academic scholarship and the popular demand for knowledge about politics. Our goal is to provide readers with a manageable perspective on the workings of Congress and real-life American politics, enhancing their ability to make the connections between the theory and practice of politics. Our hope is to illustrate empirically supported generalizations from original research and the academic literature, using examples taken from the legislative process. The decisions of individuals who work in government or who seek to get elected or appointed to public office can have tremendous consequences for Americans and citizens of other nations. The same is true of the efforts of party leaders, interest group lobbyists, voters, and protesters who try to influence the actions of those in government. This book could not have been completed without the assistance of many individuals and organizations. First and foremost we must thank our authors. They tolerated our exhortations to put aside the "rules" of writing they learned in graduate school, to make their chapters interesting and accessible to a broad audience, and to give readers a sense of what it is like to participate in real politics. Next, we wish to thank Beth Mejia, Jessica Drew, and Heather Shelstadt of Prentice Hall, and Kari Callaghan Mazzola, who contributed to the book''s clarity with her careful editorial and production supervision. We also thank the following reviewers for their helpful feedback: John H. Aldrich, Duke University; William T. Bianco, Penn State; Lawrence C. Dodd, University of Florida; C. Lawrence Evans, The College of William & Mary; Morris P. Fiorina, Stanford University; Representative David E. Price, U.S. House of Representatives; and Charles Stewart III, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We also want to acknowledge the American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship Program. The program gave most of the book''s contributors the opportunity to work in Congress and observe firsthand how it operates. Finally, we wish to thank the members of Congress who employed us. The relationship that exists between elected politicians and the political aides, fellows, and interns who staff their offices is a remarkable one. Members rely on their staffs to help them cope with the immense workload that Congress imposes on them. In so doing, they surrender some of the control they have over their own political futures and give their aides the opportunity to participate in deliberations that could fundamentally alter the lives of millions of people living in the United States and abroad. All of the participants in this book are indebted to the members whom we served. They had enough faith in us to allow us to participate in the legislative process and observe firsthand how Congress really works. Colton C. Campbell Paul S. Herrnson

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