The Upper House: A Journey Behind the Closed Doors of the U. S. Senate

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They come to Washington for varied and complex reasons?driven perhaps by some deep emotional commitment to an issue, or believing that their time in Congress can make their dream of the presidency a reality. No matter what their motivation or particular route, freshmen have three traits in common: they will be members of one of the most powerful deliberative bodies on the planet; they will have far less leverage and influence than they might have imagined; and finally, none of them?not even the most experienced ...

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The Upper House: A Journey behind the Closed Doors of the U.S. Senate

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They come to Washington for varied and complex reasons—driven perhaps by some deep emotional commitment to an issue, or believing that their time in Congress can make their dream of the presidency a reality. No matter what their motivation or particular route, freshmen have three traits in common: they will be members of one of the most powerful deliberative bodies on the planet; they will have far less leverage and influence than they might have imagined; and finally, none of them—not even the most experienced political hand—will have any idea exactly what will take to succeed as a United States Senator.

In The Upper House, political analyst Terrence Samuel journeys inside the legislative arm of the government to discover what makes a modern senator. He gets to the heart of the Senate and follows the people—Harry Reid, Jim Webb, Amy Klobuchar, Jon Tester, Chuck Schumer, Bob Corker—and the institution through displays of dazzling power, bewildering helplessness, and sacred traditions both ancient and modern.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Samuel has produced a concise, engaging and readable take on the subject…eminently worthwhile.”—The Washington Times

“The U.S. Senate today has become a pressure-cooker, a place of combat, hardball politics and raw ambition. The Upper House pulls back the curtain and shows it all: the brawling, the deal-making, and sometimes even the hilarity, of the U.S. Senate in action. With rare access, Terence Samuel presents a dramatic and intense look at life in the august halls of power as it really is and what it really means, for better or worse, for our democracy.”—Roger Simon, author of Divided We Stand

“Veteran D.C. journalist Terence Samuel deftly guides us through the hallways and back rooms of one of Washington's most peculiar centers of power: the U.S. Senate. With a gripping narrative focusing on the ongoing political wars, Samuel shows how America's top lawmakers—a curious collection of egos and oddballs—make the sausage, or, too often, don't. This ain't the Senate you read about in civics class.”—David Corn, author of The Lies of George W. Bush

“Terence Samuel's fascinating book provides an engaging and lively look at the troubled institution of the Senate over the past decade. His thoughtful narrative, based on perceptive sketches of several senators, shows why the institution has become mired in a chronic crisis. Readers will be grateful to Samuel for his informed guidance about the causes of the Senate's current malaise.”—Lewis L. Gould, author of The Modern American Presidency and Grand Old Party

“Terence Samuel opens a window, one that is usually slammed tight, on the United States Senate’s bizarre customs and folkways, and he shows us these usually carefully scripted and packaged people in a candid light. A highly edifying and important book.”—Michael Tomasky, author of Hillary's Turn



Bob Kerrey
I think The Upper House will help Americans understand how the Senate works—and why it often doesn't. The book's portraits of senators at work should spread the word that they are just people like all the rest of us.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230623613
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 5/25/2010
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Terence Samuel was the chief congressional correspondent for U.S. News & World Report from 2000 to 2005. Previously, he was a reporter and New York bureau chief at The Philadelphia Inquirer, a director of news programming at America Online and a political columnist for The American Prospect. Formerly, he was deputy editor of The Root, The Washington Post’s online magazine of opinion and analysis aimed at African American readers. He is currently editor-at-large at The Root and senior correspondent for The American Prospect.He has appeared on PBS’s Washington Week, CNN, CNN International, MSNBC and Fox News, as well as on international media outlets BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note 7

Introduction 15

1 Election Night 23

2 The Great Reverses 41

3 Orientation 59

4 Swearing in 77

5 Debate and Resolution 95

6 Meanwhile, Back in the State 113

7 What a Senator Looks Like 127

8 Odd Man Out 145

9 Harry Reid, First among Equals 159

10 How Not to End a War 175

11 When Failure Looks Like Success 191

12 When Success Looks Like Failure 209

Epilogue 231

Acknowledgments 241

Notes 243

Index 253

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2011

    Not the best.

    This book would be more informative if the author delved into more legislative details about the freshman senators of 2006. Instead, he focuses on personal anecdotes that are fun to read but generally not all that informative. On the other hand, he presents the Senate as a degenerating, ineffective institution by only giving examples of contention and disagreement. While the Senate is indeed split along party lines right now, the book would be less biased if it showed both sides of the issue.

    Overall: Do not read if you are looking for a detailed account of the legislative process. If you are looking for something lighter and maybe easier to read, this wouldn't be the worst choice.

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