Video available for lecture series on Congress and congressional capacity
This past August, the U.S. Capitol Historical Society hosted a weekly lecture series on Congress and congressional capacity. Congressional scholars presented new research on various aspects of Congress, including leadership, social media and representation, earmarks, and staffing.
Video links are available for the following lectures:
Matthew Green, professor of politics at Catholic University, presented a portion of his forthcoming book (with Douglas Harris), which draws upon whip tallies, public and private vote commitments, interviews, and media accounts from the 1960s to the present to provide new insights into the selection of party leaders in Congress.
Colleen Shogan and Jacob Straus examine the impact of social media on representation and develop a new theory–interactive representation–to explain the potential for real-time communication between Members of Congress and constituents. They use several case studies to illustrate the concept of interactive representation and explain why it has the potential to change democratic norms in substantial ways.
Are parties capable of learning from their failures? Seth Masket examines several examples of parties trying to understand a surprising loss and recalibrate for the next election and apply this to the current presidential election cycle.
Congressional earmarks, often derided as “pork,” used to enable legislators to get projects funded in their districts. Laura Blessing explains how this long-used tool, banned after the 2010 elections, has an interesting history and politics, and its discontinuation has prompted greater congressional dysfunction. From imperiling previously bipartisan appropriations bills, to lowering the status of appropriators, to making it more difficult for party leadership to control their members, the earmarks ban has had wide-ranging effects on Congress.
Congress needs staff to carry out the duties prescribed by the Constitution and demanded by the public. Kevin Kosar discusses how from 1900 to 1990, Congress sporadically grew its staff to help it contend with its growing workload. That ended in the 1990s, and since then the legislative branch has downsized its corps of employees despite the expansion of government.