Photo of James Wallner

James Wallner

Senior Fellow, Governance Project, R Street Institute

James Wallner is a senior fellow of the R Street Institute and member of R Street’s Governance Project and Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group teams. He researches and writes about Congress, especially the Senate; the separation of powers; legislative procedure; and the federal policy process.

James joined R Street in July 2017 from the Heritage Foundation, where he was group vice president for research. He also serves as an adjunct professor in the politics department and the Congressional and Presidential Studies Program at the Catholic University of America as well as in the Department of Government at American University. Additionally, James is a Fellow at American University’s Center of Congressional and Presidential Studies.

Earlier in his career, he was executive director of the Senate Steering Committee during the chairmanships of Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Mike Lee, R-Utah. He also has served as legislative director to Toomey and to former Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

He is the author of two books, The Death of Deliberation: Partisanship and Polarization in the United States Senate, published in 2013 and On Parliamentary War: Partisan Conflict and Procedural Change in the United States Senate published in 2017.

James received both his doctoral and master’s degrees in politics from the Catholic University of America. He also holds a master’s in international and European politics from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Georgia.

He currently lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Kimberly; two children; and two golden retrievers.

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Real purpose of the Senate: To check the actions of the House

December 6, 2018
Niccolò Machiavelli was one of the principal architects of American constitutionalism. A heterodox thinker in his day, Machiavelli observed in his Discourses on Livy (1531): “Those who blame the quarrels of the Senate… Read More
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Jeff Flake doesn’t have to go gentle into that good night

November 19, 2018
In a famous poem, Dylan Thomas urges his father, “Do not go gentle into that good night … Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Thomas’ poem is about… Read More
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R Sheet on forcing votes

November 16, 2018
KEY POINTS 1) Today’s majority leaders exercise unprecedented control over the Senate floor. 2) They do so to prevent their colleagues from offering amendments without their prior approval. 3) Leaders… Read More
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Assessing McConnell’s Role in Judicial Confirmations

November 14, 2018
The Senate has spent much of its time in the 115th Congress confirming President Trump’s judicial nominations. Before the midterm elections, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., touted… Read More
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Senate Republicans get ready to play musical chairs

November 5, 2018
Regardless of what happens in the 2018 midterm elections, Republicans are set to play a game of musical chairs on some of the most important committees in the Senate. The… Read More
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Reforming the Senate’s hotline system

October 31, 2018
(Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in Legislative Procedure on October 29, 2018.) Senators often blame their leaders whenever they are frustrated with how the Senate works. Yet they… Read More
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Anticipating Trouble: Congressional Primaries and Incumbent Behavior

October 29, 2018
As we approach the midterm elections, both Democrats and Republicans are faced with significant intraparty divisions. This polarization manifests itself most clearly in the primary process and elections. However, congressional… Read More
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‘Tis the season for changing how the Senate works

October 29, 2018
(Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in Legislative Procedure on October 22, 2018.) In the Senate today, the legislative process is centralized under the control of the party leaders… Read More
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Congress and NAFTA 2.0

October 11, 2018
(Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in Legislative Procedure on October 10, 2018.) The United States, Mexico, and Canada recently agreed to modify the North American Free Trade… Read More
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Lame ducks and congressional accountability

October 4, 2018
(Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in Law and Liberty on October 3, 2018.) The ranks of those writing about the state of American governance have swelled recently… Read More