Strengthening Congress

Overview

Calling Upon Americans to take more seriously their obligations and responsibilities as citizens and engage with the critical issues facing their communities and the nation, distinguished former congressman Lee H. Hamilton argues that America needs a stronger Congress and a more engaged citizenry in order to ensure responsive and effective democracy.

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Strengthening Congress

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Overview

Calling Upon Americans to take more seriously their obligations and responsibilities as citizens and engage with the critical issues facing their communities and the nation, distinguished former congressman Lee H. Hamilton argues that America needs a stronger Congress and a more engaged citizenry in order to ensure responsive and effective democracy.

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Editorial Reviews

Thomas E. Mann

"Lee Hamilton, one of this country's greatest public servants ever, has written a new book that challenges Congress to revitalize its special place in the American constitutional system and exhorts citizens to engage this institution to realize the promise of our representative democracy. Strengthening Congress is both a constructive critique of the broken branch and a compelling call to arms for politicians and citizens alike to repair it." —Thomas E. Mann, co-author of The Broken Branch

Martin Tolchin

"A lively blueprint for restoring a risk-averse Congress to its rightful place in our democracy. This penetrating analysis by a pre-eminent Washington insider is a must read for anyone interested in politics and government." —Martin Tolchin, Congressional Correspondent, The New York Times

Norman J. Ornstein

"Strengthening Congress makes a clear and compelling case for why we need a strong, vibrant, and assertive Congress, where it needs change and reform, and how to provide the changes needed.... It is a welcome roadmap to help strengthen oversight, deliberation, ethics, and legislating inside Congress and to reform the role of loybbyists and citizens outside Congress." —Norman J. Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

Janet Hook

"Lee Hamilton is a truly rare breed. He is a wise man who knows Congress inside out—and can still think constructively about its strengths and weaknesses. His book provides a clear and well-informed view of how the country would benefit from a stronger Congress." —Janet Hook, Los Angeles Times, Washington Bureau

From the Publisher
"Lee Hamilton, one of this country's greatest public servants ever, has written a new book that challenges Congress to revitalize its special place in the American constitutional system and exhorts citizens to engage this institution to realize the promise of our representative democracy. Strengthening Congress is both a constructive critique of the broken branch and a compelling call to arms for politicians and citizens alike to repair it." —Thomas E. Mann,
co-author of The Broken Branch

"A lively blueprint for restoring a risk-averse Congress to its rightful place in our democracy. This penetrating analysis by a pre-eminent Washington insider is a must read for anyone interested in politics and government." —Martin Tolchin, Congressional Correspondent,
The New York Times

"Lee Hamilton is a truly rare breed. He is a wise man who knows Congress inside out—and can still think constructively about its strengths and weaknesses. His book provides a clear and well-informed view of how the country would benefit from a stronger Congress."
—Janet Hook, Los Angeles Times, Washington Bureau

"Strengthening Congress makes a clear and compelling case for why we need a strong,
vibrant, and assertive Congress, where it needs change and reform, and how to provide the changes needed.... It is a welcome roadmap to help strengthen oversight, deliberation, ethics, and legislating inside Congress and to reform the role of loybbyists and citizens outside Congress."
—Norman J. Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253221650
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 9/7/2009
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Lee H. Hamilton served Indiana in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1965 to 1999
and is Director of The Center on Congress at Indiana University Bloomington. He is author of How
Congress Works and Why You Should Care (IUP, 2004)

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 Why We Need to Restore Power to Congress 1

The Intent of the Founders 1

Ceding Responsibilities to the President 4

Why Does Congress Want to Give up Power? 7

What it Means when You Take That Oath of Office 10

2 A Stronger Voice 12

Congress Should Do More than Tinker with the Budget 12

The Decision to Go to War 16

Initiating Policy 18

Understanding Congress 20

3 Strengthening Congressional Oversight 23

Broken Oversight 23

Every Administration Needs Oversight 26

Oversight Needs to Be Systematic 28

4 Restoring the Deliberative Process 31

Why Congress Needs the Deliberative Process 31

Omnibus Bills 34

Congressional Debates Need Facts, Not Spin 36

Why Congress Isn't Efficient, and Shouldn't Be 38

Congress Should Not Be Just about Winning 41

To Govern Well, Return to the Basics 43

5 Reducing Excessive Partisanship 45

Congress Depends on Civility 45

Why Is Congress So Partisan? 47

Why Holding the Majority Matters 50

How Do We Reduce Partisanship? 52

6 Strengthening Ethics Enforcement 55

Congress Needs to Invigorate Its Ethics System, Not Weaken It 55

Why Ethics Should Matter to Congress 57

Getting Outside Help 59

7 Curbing the Influence of Lobbyists 63

We Pay a Price for Special-Interest Lobbying 63

Lobbying Murkiness Undermines Our Trust in Congress 66

True Lobbying Reform 69

In the End, Responsibility Lies with Politicians and the Voters 71

8 Strengthening Citizen Participation 73

Are the People Prepared? 73

First, We Need an Informed Citizenry 76

We Also Need a Citizenry That Looks for Candidates Who Respect Congress 78

Why Political Virtue Matters 80

The Ten Commandments of Good Citizenship 82

9A Well-Functioning Congress 86

It Will Search for Remedy 86

It Will Look Ahead 88

It Will Help to Set the Agenda 91

It Will Give Voice to a Diverse People 93

It Will Forge Consensus 95

It Will Exercise Judgment 98

It Will Be Led Responsibly 100

It Will Engage in Genuine Consultation 102

It Will Seek the Common Good 104

Appendix 1 How to Judge Congress 107

Appendix 2 Analyzing Congressional Arguments 109

Appendix 3 Twelve ways to contact your Member of Congress 113

Appendix 4 Making your case Effectively: Some Do's and Don'ts 115

Notes 117

Index 121

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