Is the House of Representatives Legislating In the Dark?

In this short audio interview, Professor James Curry (University of Utah) explains how limited resources have enabled party leaders to write and negotiate most laws in Congress. Lacking expertise, staff, and time, rank-and-file members rarely have the chance to contribute to the bills on which they vote.

Curry is the author of Legislating in the Dark: Information and Power in the House of Representatives (University of Chicago Press, 2015). He writes:

“Public calls are on the rise for members of Congress to “read the bill” before they vote, but reading a bill is far from enough. Even when they take time to read bills, most rank-and-file lawmakers lack the technical and policy-relevant knowledge needed to understand the implications of legislative proposals. In the contemporary Congress, lawmakers have to turn to their party leaders for information – and lawmakers in formal leadership posts control an increasingly disproportionate share of House and Senate staff resources. As a predictable result, deliberations on many bills are not as well informed as they could be, mired in partisan talking points rather than in well-articulated diverse perspectives from legislators and their constituents”…. (Read more at the Scholar Strategy Network)

By the way, Lee Drutman reviewed Curry’s book for the Washington Monthly.