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How Congress Works and Why You Should Care [NOOK Book]

Overview

How Congress Works and Why You Should Care is a concise introduction to the functions and vital role of the U.S. Congress by eminent former Congressman Lee H. Hamilton. Drawing on 34 years as a U.S. Representative, Hamilton explains how Congress reflects the diversity of the American people, serves as a forum for finding consensus, and provides balance within the federal government. Addressing widespread public misperceptions, he outlines areas where Congress can work better and ways for citizens to become more ...

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How Congress Works and Why You Should Care

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Overview

How Congress Works and Why You Should Care is a concise introduction to the functions and vital role of the U.S. Congress by eminent former Congressman Lee H. Hamilton. Drawing on 34 years as a U.S. Representative, Hamilton explains how Congress reflects the diversity of the American people, serves as a forum for finding consensus, and provides balance within the federal government. Addressing widespread public misperceptions, he outlines areas where Congress can work better and ways for citizens to become more engaged in public affairs through their representatives in Washington. How Congress Works and Why You Should Care is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the inner workings of Congress, and how all citizens can participate in its unique mission.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Remember that "how a bill becomes law" charts in your high school civics class? It doesn't begin to describe the "messy" process that really operates in Congress, according to Hamilton, a former congressman from Indiana who was respected on both sides of the aisle. He offers a strong defense of the institution he served from 1965 to 1999. This basic primer details the history of Congress, its importance and some of the critical actions it has taken-from the Tariff Act of 1790, which established duties on imported goods, to landmark laws of the 1960s, such as the Voting Rights Act and the bills that established Medicare and Medicaid. Hamilton also describes the "complicated and untidy" process by which Congress really works and why we "need more people who know how to practice the art of politics." Congress, he argues, acts "as the people's voice against unchecked power[;] it is the guarantor of liberty." The author is not uncritical of Congress, offering several suggestions as to how that body could improve itself. But here and elsewhere in the book, his suggestions and arguments fail to scratch much below the surface. It's hard to disagree with the statements that congressional discourse should be more civil and that citizens should be more active in politics, but Hamilton fails to address the causes of these and other problems. Still, in a cynical age, and a time of increasing presidential authority, it's encouraging to see a true, reasonable believer call for recognizing Congress as a necessary pillar of American democracy. Parents should send this primer off with their kids to college. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The Cook Political Report
"Lee Hamilton's new book... should be required reading for any American contemplating writing a ‘Letter to the Editor’ or calling into (or hosting) a radio talk show, or for that matter, stepping into a voting booth. It is an owner’s manual for citizens interested in their Congress." —Charlie Cook, Editor and Publisher, The Cook Political Report

— Charlie Cook, Editor and Publisher

SciTech Book News

"Americans cannot be faulted for having a deeply jaundiced view of their Congress, says Hamilton (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars); he ought to know, because he served as a Representative for Indiana from 1965 to 1999. But he argues that people can and should fix it rather than give up on it completely." —SciTech Book News, February 2010

The Cook Political Report - Charlie Cook

"Lee Hamilton's new book... should be required reading for any American contemplating writing a ‘Letter to the Editor’ or calling into (or hosting) a radio talk show, or for that matter, stepping into a voting booth. It is an owner’s manual for citizens interested in their Congress." —Charlie Cook, Editor and Publisher, The Cook Political Report

Thomas Mann

"A passionate and eloquent defense of the essential role Congress plays in the American constitutional system and a reasoned call for citizens to engage more actively in their representative democracy. Like Hamilton himself, this volume is scrupulously honest, fair-minded, and accessible to a wide audience." —Thomas Mann, W. Averell Harriman Senior Fellow in American Governance, The Brookings Institution

Norman J. Ornstein

"Lee Hamilton’s book not only describes the Madisonian vision of what Congress is supposed to be and assesses how it measures up to that vision today, it also serves the same function of educating and edifying the American public that the Federalist papers did.... Every student of Congress, and every American, can benefit from this book." —Norman J. Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

From the Publisher
"A passionate and eloquent defense of the essential role Congress plays in the American constitutional system and a reasoned call for citizens to engage more actively in their representative democracy. Like Hamilton himself, this volume is scrupulously honest, fair-minded, and accessible to a wide audience." —Thomas Mann, W. Averell Harriman Senior Fellow in American Governance, The Brookings Institution

"Lee Hamilton's new book... should be required reading for any American contemplating writing a ‘Letter to the Editor’ or calling into (or hosting) a radio talk show, or for that matter, stepping into a voting booth. It is an owner’s manual for citizens interested in their Congress." —Charlie Cook, Editor and Publisher, The Cook Political Report

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253110954
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 2/26/2004
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 168
  • Sales rank: 670,255
  • File size: 275 KB

Meet the Author

Lee H. Hamilton was U.S. Representative from Indiana’s Ninth District from 1965 to 1999. He served as Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Joint Economic Committee, and the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. He is now director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

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Table of Contents

Chapter One: The Role of Congress
Why Congress exists
Core principle: Sovereignty of the People
Core principle: Balancing powers in government
Congress and the President
Why federalism works
Key power: Passing the basic laws of the land
Key power: The power of the purse
Key power: Congress and foreign policy
Congress and individual liberties
The roots of our success


Chapter Two: The Impact of Congress
Congress and the fabric of our lives
Government's greatest endeavors
An ordinary day
Congress does more work than meets the eye
A balanced view of Congress
Members of Congress who had an impact


Chapter Three: How Congress Works
A complex institution
An evolving institution
The many roles of a member of Congress
Representing constituents
How a bill really becomes law
Why we need more politicians
Power in Congress
The House and the Senate
The awesome responsibility of voting
The frustrations and rewards of Congress


Chapter Four: Public Criticisms of Congress
"Members are a bunch of crooks."
"There's too much wasteful, pork-barrel spending by Congress."
"Legislators just bicker and never get anything done."
"You can't trust what members of Congress say."
"Congress almost seems designed to promote total gridlock."
"Members of Congress compromise too much."
"There's too much money in politics today."
"Members are out of touch with their constituents."
"Congress is run by lobbyists and special interests"
Conclusion


Chapter Five: Key Ways Congress Could Work Better
Declining civility
The importance of good process
Better White House/Congress consultation
True congressional oversight
Improving ethics enforcement
Thinking about the future
The money chase
Improving public understanding of Congress
Tackling the tough issues
Congress and the common good
Conclusion

Chapter Six: Civic Participation
A failure to communicate
Being more involved in the work of Congress
The cornerstones of active citizenship
Making your views known to Congress
Individuals who have made a difference
Can the people govern?
Strengthening representative democracy

Appendix: Communicating with Congress
Notes
Index

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2013

    Excellent read

    Definately worth the time for this short book!

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