Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Minority Rules

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Minority Rules

Article excerpt

Two weeks after the Republicans wrested control of the House of Representatives from the Democrats in the biggest partisan swing in the lower chamber since 1948, the Wilson Center's Congress Project gathered a group of noted politicos to discuss the fortunes of the minority party, in Congress.

The forecast isn't sunny. According to former representative Robert Walker (R-Pa.), members of the minority party are "more than potted plants, but not much," Matthew N. Green, an assistant professor of politics at the Catholic University of America, agreed, noting that "from majority status, all else flows" including crucial committee chairmanships; control over the chamber's agenda, roles, and procedures; and attention from the political press.

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But being in the minority' party does not mean just watching the ink dry on the nation's legislation. It can be "exhilarating at times," said Walker, who spent most of his 20 years in the House toiling in what Congress Project director Donald Wolfensberger called "the minority wilderness." When a party's contingent is smaller, members can spend more time thinking through legislative proposals and criticisms of the majority's positions, which can help shape legislation if relations between the parties are reasonably amicable. …

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