How Congress Works: And Why You Should Care

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An inside look at the way Congress works and how it impacts the lives of all Americans, by an eminent former Congressman.
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How Congress Works and Why You Should Care

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An inside look at the way Congress works and how it impacts the lives of all Americans, by an eminent former Congressman.
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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.
Library Journal
Polling data since the 1950s demonstrates that, of all branches of the national government, Congress consistently ranks as the least popular or trusted. Recent studies have found that such poor opinion is a function of the public's ignorance of what Congress does and how it does it. In an effort to correct the public's perceptions about Congress, former Congressman Lee Hamilton has published a collection of his essays drawn from newspaper columns that both inform and empower the reader. In lively, accessible language, Hamilton presents the institutional Congress-its rules and procedures-while simultaneously exposing the human face of the legislature: the people who occupy the seats in the House and the Senate. His many examples drawn from personal experience are perfectly chosen to illustrate his points. Most important, Hamilton challenges the reader to become more involved in the political process and suggests simple methods for the average person to do so. Recommended for all public libraries.-Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253344250
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2004
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.46 (h) x 0.71 (d)

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 Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. and director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He lives in Alexandria,

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Table of Contents

1 The Role of Congress 1
2 The Impact of Congress 26
3 How Congress Works 42
4 Public Criticisms of Congress 75
5 Key Ways Congress Could Work Better 97
6 Civic Participation 124
App Communicating with Congress 149
Notes 151
Index 153
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2013

    Excellent read

    Definately worth the time for this short book!

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