Congress in Crisis

Does a government shutdown offer more time to read?

This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral…

By Mark Leibovich
Networking at a funeral would be considered obscene in most cities. But most cities are not Washington, as New York Times chief national correspondent Mark Leibovich affirms in his muckraking chronicle of the ultra-motivated governmental elite of D.C. Following the so-called power mourners handing out business cards at Meet the Press‘s Tim Russert’s funeral, Leibovich exposes the overt corruption and opportunism that exist in our nation’s capital — and why they may mark the lowest point in our congressional history.

Act of Congress: How America’s Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn’t
By Robert G. Kaiser
As evidenced by recent events, Congress isn’t always a well-oiled machine — in fact, it sometimes functions like a rusted iron plow. In Act of Congress, Washington Post reporter Robert G. Kaiser delivers a scathing criticism — and occasional commendation — of the backbone of our democracy following the fiscal crisis of 2008. Profiling the key House and Senate players who spearheaded the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, Kaiser reveals the shortcomings of lobbying and bipartisanship in the passing of legislature and encourages the reform of a fundamental — yet archaic — entity, unchanged for over 200 years.

Our Divided Political Heart
By E. J. Dionne, Jr.
The answer to legislative gridlock and partisan brinksmanship doesn’t lie in today’s political maneuvers, argues the veteran journalist, but in a fresh appreciation of our past. Departing from the usual catalogue of right- or left-wing sins, Dionne offers in its place a thought-provoking tour through an America’s history in which individualism and a commitment to the commonweal have always been in dynamic balance.  A sobering but ultimately hopeful look at how we got here, and how we can move forward.

The Party Is Over
By Mike Lofgren
A former Republican congressional staffer with a career stretching back over three decades unveils an insider’s perspective on a legislative system infected with what he calls a “high measure of low cunning.” Lofgren contrasts the challenging, sometimes tedious work of compromise by which working laws are made with the current situation, in which obstruction and gridlock are deployed for short-term political gain. The author is tough on his own party but suggests in this trenchant analysis that the blame doesn’t stop there.

A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution
By Carol Berkin
Politicians both sides of the aisle and pundits of all stripes invoke the Constitution when arguing for their legislative priorities, but as historian Carol Berkin reminds us, the document that gave shape to America’s government was borne out of arguments as fiery and passionate as any that divide the nation today. Her novelistic approach to the story of its birth — with a cast that includes George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin alongside many others — will draw you in.  But it’s her portrait of a society determined to find a balance between individual rights and collective responsibilities that remains inspiring, even when today’s headlines aren’t.