ICYMI: Round-up of good reads on Congress
New: Michael Pertschuk’s When the Senate Worked for Us (Vanderbilt University Press, 2017).
Excerpt from Lee Drutman’s review of the book, “Congress wasn’t always this awful,” Washington Monthly:
“Congress just has fewer staff positions than it used to. In 1975, Pertschuk’s Commerce Committee had 112 staffers, which increased to 162 by 1985. By 2015, staffing on the committee had fallen to eighty-three. In the Senate, staffing levels stagnated in the 1980s and have declined slowly since. House staffing levels underwent an even sharper decline after Newt Gingrich became speaker in the 1990s and slashed committee budgets. Neither chamber has recovered. Nonpartisan sources of expertise in Congress have also declined. The Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service, which provide nonpartisan policy and program analysis to lawmakers, now employ 20 percent fewer staffers than they did in 1979.
“Some of this is the consequence of party leaders centralizing resources in order to ensure that they control the process. Some is a consequence of conservative small-government dogma and an unwillingness of members of Congress to defend their own institution. The upshot is that more and more policymaking is outsourced to the phalanxes of lobbyists who surround Capitol Hill, since they’re now the ones with the expertise, resources, and time to develop and build support for policies.
“When the Senate Worked for Us is a helpful reminder that Congress didn’t always look the way it does now. A remarkable number of bright and talented young people still want to work in Congress, and do—it’s not that nobody wants the job. But few people stick around like Pertschuk and his Bumblebees did. In part they leave because the pay has gotten worse, and in part because there are simply fewer and fewer opportunities to do much of significance. A gridlocked Congress is a frustrating place to work, as is one in which party leaders dominate policymaking. Change that, and perhaps a new generation of Bumblebees will fly again.”
Other good reads include:
Stuart Butler, “Republicans will need to work with Democrats to pass tax reform,” Brookings
James Hohmann, “The Daily 202: Republican committee chairmen are retiring in droves, despite unified control of Congress,” Washington Post’s The Daily 202
James Wallner, “Jeff Flake’s indictment of American politics,” Library of Law & Liberty
James Wallner, “Will the reconciliation route work?” Library of Law & Liberty
Donald Wolfensberger, “The dysfunctional Senate,” The Hill.