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Congress and Policy Making in the 21st Century


Jeffery A. Jenkins, Eric M. Patashnik, Craig Volden, Alan Wiseman, Barbara Sinclair, Rick Vallely, Nicholas Carnes, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Theda Skocpol, Nolan McCarty, Sarah Binder, Mark Spindel, Jonathan Oberlander, Daniel J. Tichenor, Bruce I. Oppenheimer, R. Douglas Arnold
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  • Date Published: February 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107565555

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About the Authors
  • Congress is frequently said to be 'broken', 'dysfunctional', and 'weak', but how does the contemporary Congress really work? Does Congress have the capacity to solve major policy problems? Can it check an aggrandizing executive, oversee a powerful Federal Reserve, and represent the American people? Can Congress cope with vast changes in the American political economy, including rising income inequality? Congress and Policy Making in the 21st Century takes a fresh look at the performance of Congress in the domestic arena, focusing on issues such as immigration, health care, and the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'. With original contributions from leading scholars, this important volume examines how Congress tackles - and fails to tackle - key policy challenges in an era of growing social diversity and ideological polarization. Rich in analysis and illuminating detail, the book reveals the full complexity of the institution at work.

    • Goes beyond calling Congress 'dysfunctional' and examines whether Congress sometimes or never fulfils its lawmaking responsibilities
    • By better connecting traditional Congress scholarship and research with public policy research, the book provides the reader with different perspectives
    • Presents a mix of different theoretical and empirical viewpoints, so will appeal to scholars from different standpoints
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '[These] essays provide two essential contributions - an emphasis on the contemporary Congress and a focus on the part it plays in policy making. They break away from dated understandings, and they push the reader to imagine the products of the legislative process, not just the process alone.' Kenneth A. Shepsle, Markham Professor of Government, Harvard University, Massachusetts

    'How well does Congress address today's enormous social, economic, and fiscal challenges? Do our classic theories of Congressional behavior and operations still hold up? Patashnik and Jenkins brilliantly assemble the leading Congressional and Public Policy scholars for a wonderfully insightful, coherent, and relevant collection of analyses. I learned so much, and I can't wait to share with my students the fresh inquiries and topical case studies. A new classic is born.' Andrea Louise Campbell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    'Most scholarship on Congress focuses on internal institutions and procedures, rather than on policy making. This volume weighs in to right that imbalance … With so much variation across issues, the book offers a more complete portrait that goes beyond easy cynicism or blanket denunciations of congressional 'dysfunction'.' Frances E. Lee, University of Maryland

    'To explain when [Congress] does - or doesn't - work, we need new theories and explanations, ones that situate Congress within the current political context. This [volume] … demonstrat[es] that in order to understand the twenty-first-century Congress and its role in the policy process, we need to first recognize that it operates in a changed political landscape, one featuring strong presidents, polarized parties, and declining public trust.' Charles Shipan, University of Michigan

    '… these essays transcend assessments of institutional performance based on the number of laws passed and instead evaluate the extent to which legislators produce policies that address major domestic priorities. An analytically astute and deeply sobering account of why a nation that excels in so many other respects today struggles to govern itself.' Suzanne Mettler, Clinton Rossiter Professor of American Institutions, Cornell University, New York

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107565555
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.49kg
    • contains: 29 b/w illus. 10 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The evolving textbook Congress: polarization and policy making on Capitol Hill in the twenty-first century Jeffery A. Jenkins and Eric M. Patashnik
    Part I. Congressional Policy Making in a Polarized Age:
    2. Entrepreneurial politics, policy gridlock, and legislative effectiveness Craig Volden and Alan Wiseman
    3. Partisan polarization and congressional policy making Barbara Sinclair
    Part II. Congress and Society:
    4. Making a rainbow military: parliamentary skill and repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Rick Vallely
    5. Who votes for inequality? Nicholas Carnes
    Part III. Congress and Economic Policy:
    6. Congress makes tax policy: Democrats and Republicans at two critical junctures Alexander Hertel-Fernandez and Theda Skocpol
    7. The decline of regular order in appropriations: does it matter? Nolan McCarty
    8. Congress and the Federal Reserve: independence and accountability Sarah Binder and Mark Spindel
    Part IV. Congress and Domestic Policy Dilemmas:
    9. The $40 trillion question: can Congress control health care spending? Jonathan Oberlander
    10. The demise of immigration reform: policy making barriers under unified and divided government Daniel J. Tichenor
    11. It's hard to get mileage out of Congress: struggling over CAFE standards, 1973–2013 Bruce I. Oppenheimer
    Part V. Reflections:
    12. Explaining legislative achievements R. Douglas Arnold.

  • Editors

    Jeffery A. Jenkins, University of Virginia
    Jeffery A. Jenkins is Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Politics. He has published more than thirty-five articles in peer-reviewed journals, such as the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, Legislative Studies Quarterly, and Studies in American Political Development. He is also the author (with Charles Stewart, III) of Fighting for the Speakership: The House and the Rise of Party Government (2013) and the editor (with Sidney M. Milkis) of The Politics of Major Policy Reform in Postwar America (Cambridge, 2014) and (with Eric M. Patashnik) Living Legislation: Durability, Change, and the Politics of American Lawmaking (2012).

    Eric M. Patashnik, University of Virginia
    Eric M. Patashnik is Professor of Public Policy and Politics and Director of the Center for Health Policy in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia. He is also Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and an elected fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. Patashnik is the author of several books including Putting Trust in the US Budget: Federal Trust Funds and the Politics of Commitment (Cambridge, 2000) and Reforms at Risk: What Happens after Major Policy Changes Are Enacted (2008), which won the Louis Brownlow Book Award for outstanding contribution to the literature on public administration.


    Jeffery A. Jenkins, Eric M. Patashnik, Craig Volden, Alan Wiseman, Barbara Sinclair, Rick Vallely, Nicholas Carnes, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Theda Skocpol, Nolan McCarty, Sarah Binder, Mark Spindel, Jonathan Oberlander, Daniel J. Tichenor, Bruce I. Oppenheimer, R. Douglas Arnold

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