The New Congress

The New Congress

The New Congress

The New Congress

Excerpt

Everyone recognizes that much has changed in Congress over the past twenty years. Its members are very different, its rules and internal organization have been restructured, its staffs have greatly expanded. Yet some basic features of Congress have remained stable over this period, anchored as they are in the constitutional separation of powers and in our decentralized political party system. The purpose of this book is to assess what this mix of continuity and change means for the policy process.

This question takes on special significance in contemporary American politics. On the one hand, an increasing number of analysts, most notably Lloyd Cutler, former counsel to President Carter, have argued that the instruments of collective authority and accountability in American politics have been weakened in recent years at the same time that the problems facing government have become more complex. Our inability "to form a government," in Cutler's words, stems in large part from the fact that Congress has become more decentralized and individualized.

On the other hand, we have just experienced one of the most dramatic elections in recent American history, in which an incumbent president was rejected, control of the Senate shifted to the Republicans for the first time in twenty-six years, and conservative forces gained significant strength in the House.

The Reagan administration clearly aspires to change the direction of federal policy, reducing taxes and domestic spending, increasing defense spending, and balancing the budget. What happens when a reformed Congress (including a Republican Senate which shows few signs of "re-reforming" or unreforming) meets a new administration armed with a powerful electoral mandate and intent on changing course?

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