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October 21, 2010 | History

The U.S. Congress 1 edition

The U.S. Congress
Donald A. Ritchie

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The U.S. Congress
a very short introduction
Donald A. Ritchie

Published 2010 by Oxford University Press in New York .
Written in English.

About the Book

"Many scholars believe that the framers of the Constitution intended Congress to be the preeminent branch of government. Indeed, no other legislature in the world approaches its power. Yet most Americans have only a murky idea of how it works. In The U.S. Congress, Donald A. Ritchie, a congressional historian for more than thirty years, takes readers on a fascinating, behind-the-scenes tour of Capitol Hill--pointing out the key players, explaining their behavior, and translating parliamentary language into plain English. No mere civics lesson, this eye-opening book provides an insider's perspective on Congress, matched with a professional historian's analytical insight. After a swift survey of the creation of Congress by the constitutional convention, he begins to unscrew the nuts and pull out the bolts. What is it like to campaign for congress? To attract large donors? To enter either house with no seniority? He answers these questions and more, explaining committee assignments (and committee work), the role of staffers and lobbyists, floor proceedings, parliamentary rules, and coalition building. Ritchie explores the great effort put into constituent service--as representatives and senators respond to requests from groups and individuals--as well as media relations and news coverage. He also explores how the grand concepts we all know from civics class--checks and balances, advise and consent, congressional oversight--work in practice, in an age of strong presidents and a muscular Senate minority (no matter which party is in that position). In this sparkling addition to Oxford's Very Short Introduction series, Donald Ritchie moves beyond the cynicism and the platitudes to provide a gem of a portrait of how Congress really works"--

"Congress is the most open branch of the federal government, and its members labor to provide constituent services and court the news media, but because they speak with many voices they have long operated at a disadvantage against the singular image of the president. This very short introduction to Congress offers a concise explanation of how the Congress operates and provides historical context for its evolution. As a national forum, congressional debates and compromises have sought not only to enact laws but to forge national consensus behind them. Congress writes all federal laws, appropriates all federal funds, and checks and balances the executive and judicial branches. Its constitutional powers, structures, and procedures have remained remarkably consistent for more than two centuries. Yet Congress has often been criticized for obstructing or not standing up to the presidency, and for neglecting or delaying pressing national needs. This short introduction highlights the rules, precedents, and practices of the Senate and House of Representatives. It offers glimpses into their committees and floor proceedings to reveal the complex processes in which they enact legislation. It considers how members are elected and reelected, and the role of campaigns, lobbying, staff, and the media in legislative business. It also examines the changing demography of Congress, with the election of more women and racial and ethnic minorities, and their impact on the legislative process, in an era when a woman serves as Speaker of the House and African Americans chair key committees"--

Table of Contents

Machine generated contents note:
Chapter 1: The Great Compromise
-Why Not a Parliament? -All Laws Necessary and Proper -The People's House -The Cooling Senate -To Get Along, Go Along
Chapter 2: Campaigns and Constituents
-Campaigning for Congress -The Freshman Class -Serving Constituents -Media Relations and News Coverage
Chapter 3: Congress at Work
-The Committees -Turning Bills into Laws -House Committees -Senate Committees -Appropriations: Where Things Happen
Chapter 4: Floor Proceedings and Coalition Building
-Debate, Rules, and Procedure -Majority Rule in the House -Minority Muscle in the Senate -Making Laws and Making Sausage
Chapter 5: Checks and Balances
-The Chief Legislator -Advice and Consent -War and Peace -Congress Investigates -Punishment and Protection -Congress and the Courts
Chapter 6: The Contours of Capitol Hill
-The Capitol -The Members -The Staff -Lobbyists and Other Visitors

Edition Notes

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Very short introductions
Other Titles
United States Congress


Dewey Decimal Class
Library of Congress
JK1041 .R58 2010

The Physical Object

p. cm.

ID Numbers

Open Library
LC Control Number


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October 21, 2010 Created by ImportBot initial import