Broken Branch

Broken Branch : How Congress is Failing America and How to Get it Back on Track

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In this book, the third of the five trade books for the Institutions of Democracy project, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein argue that congress faces a crisis of self-identity and role in the American Constitutional System. Congress is supposed to be the driving force behind policy in the nation and a vital check and balance against the executive, but it is neither, particularly under the current administration. As with other books in this series Mann and Ornstein will examine the first principles of the intended role of the legislative branch, look throughout history at how congress has fulfilled this role, and consider what can be done to improve it and bring it back to its original more

Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 142.2 x 218.4 x 27.9mm | 498.96g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Annotated
  • annotated edition
  • 0195174461
  • 9780195174465

Review quote

...The Broken Branch...reveals their relationship with the national legislature to be much more profound than mere observation. Frankly, its love. And they are deeply distressed by Congresss current low esteem. Urging reform at every opportunity, they seem like the loyal spouse of an alcoholic or drug addict, desperately pushing their beloved into rehab. New York Times Book Reviewshow more

About Thomas E. Mann

Thomas E. Mann is the W. Averell Harriman Chair and Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. The author of numerous books on American government, and a contributor to major magazines and newspapers like Washington Post and New York Times, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Mann has served as co-director (with Ornstein) of the Transition to Governing Project and senior counselor (with Ornstein) to the Continuity of Government Commission. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland. Norman J. Ornstein is a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. An election analyst for CBS News, he writes a weekly column called "Congress Inside Out" for Roll Call. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Affairs, and he appears regularly on television programs like The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Nightline, and Charlie Rose. He serves on the board of the Public Broadcasting Service and several other nonprofit groups. Like Mann, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He lives in Chevy Chase, more

Review Text

The United States Congress has ceased to be a deliberative body, according to two eminent political scientists with some ideas about how to fix it.Mann (Brookings Institution) and Ornstein (American Enterprise Institute), both of whom arrived on Capitol Hill in 1969 with fellowships to study Congress, and have been doing so ever since, here review the evolution of Congress from the republic's founding to early 2006. Bipartisanship was already waning in the final years of the era of Democratic dominance, they argue. The Republican leadership, which was trying to be provocative in order to "nationalize" Congressional races, was often denied a role in drafting important legislation, while the Democrats used the rules to pass bills with little discussion. The authors note that Speaker Newt Gingrich's initiatives after the Republican landslide of 1994 were in the spirit of earlier reforms, de-emphasizing seniority and seeking to foster bipartisanship-but this attempt was abandoned. When George W. Bush won the presidency, House majority leaders saw themselves as mere agents of presidential policy. Party-line votes on important matters have since become the norm. Members of Congress now seem to feel they are in Washington to vote rather than to adequately discuss policy. Key pieces of legislation are badly written because amendments are not allowed. When they can, many Congressmen stay in Washington only three days a week, resulting in a decline in the quantity and quality of their work. Members of Congress have little interest in overseeing the executive branch or in how Congress functions; the latter neglect has occasioned a host of ethics scandals, which the authors discuss in detail. They also suggest independent oversight of lobbyists and five-day congressional workweeks, while recognizing that polarization in Congress reflects polarization in the country as a whole.Most of the criticism here goes to Republicans-largely because they are in power-but the wealth of detail offered by Mann and Ornstein gives partisanship a good name. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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219 ratings
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3 31% (68)
2 8% (18)
1 1% (2)
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