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Congress as a Handler of Challenges: The Historical Record

  • David R. Mayhew (a1)
Abstract

Can the U.S. Congress address major challenges? Can Congress govern? Questions like these keep getting asked. This article addresses them by consulting the record since 1789. Given the separation-of-powers structure of the American system, such questions cannot be addressed directly. They need to be deconstructed. The presidency needs to enter the discussion, too. Also, what is a major challenge? To identify such challenges, and to supply a way of seeing how and in what respects Congress, as well as in a background frame the U.S. system more broadly, has performed, I draw on comparative analysis. How has the United States participated in thirteen major “impulses” that have invested a comparable set of nations at various times since the late eighteenth century? These challenges range from launching a new nation through building a welfare state through dealing with climate change and debt/deficit problems today.

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david.mayhew@yale.edu
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Studies in American Political Development
  • ISSN: 0898-588X
  • EISSN: 1469-8692
  • URL: /core/journals/studies-in-american-political-development
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