The American Senate: An Insiders History

Paperback | February 19, 2015

byNeil MacNeil, Richard A. Baker

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Winner of the Society for History in the Federal Government's George Pendleton Prize for 2013The United States Senate has fallen on hard times. Once known as the greatest deliberative body in the world, it now has a reputation as a partisan, dysfunctional chamber. What happened to the house that forged American history's great compromises?In this groundbreaking work, a distinguished journalist and an eminent historian provide an insider's history of the United States Senate. Richard A. Baker, historian emeritus of the Senate, and the late Neil MacNeil, former chief congressional correspondent for Time magazine, integrate nearly acentury of combined experience on Capitol Hill with deep research and state-of-the-art scholarship. They explore the Senate's historical evolution with one eye on persistent structural pressures and the other on recent transformations. Here, for example, are the Senate's struggles with thepresidency - from George Washington's first, disastrous visit to the chamber on August 22, 1789, through now-forgotten conflicts with Presidents Garfield and Cleveland, to current war powers disputes. The authors also explore the Senate's potent investigative power, and show how it began with aninquiry into John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. It took flight with committees on the conduct of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and World War II; and it gained a high profile with Joseph McCarthy's rampage against communism, Estes Kefauver's organized-crime hearings (the first to bebroadcast), and its Watergate investigation. Within the book are surprises as well. For example, the office of majority leader first acquired real power in 1952 - not with Lyndon Johnson, but with Republican Robert Taft. Johnson accelerated the trend, tampering with the sacred principle of seniority in order to control issues such as committeeassignments. Rampant filibustering, the authors find, was the ironic result of the passage of 1960s civil rights legislation. No longer stigmatized as a white-supremacist tool, its use became routine, especially as the Senate became more partisan in the 1970s. Thoughtful and incisive, The American Senate: An Insider's History transforms our understanding of Congress's upper house.

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From the Publisher

Winner of the Society for History in the Federal Government's George Pendleton Prize for 2013The United States Senate has fallen on hard times. Once known as the greatest deliberative body in the world, it now has a reputation as a partisan, dysfunctional chamber. What happened to the house that forged American history's great compromi...

Neil MacNeil, a founding member of the PBS program Washington Week, first began to cover the Senate in 1949, and served as Time magazine's chief congressional correspondent for thirty years. He was also the author of Forge of Democracy: The House of Representatives and Dirksen: Portrait of a Public Man. He died in 2008, as this work wa...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:480 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.68 inPublished:February 19, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190231963

ISBN - 13:9780190231965

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsPrefacePrologue: Entering the Contemporary Senate1. Money and Politics: Electing U.S. Senators2. The Collapse of Campaign Finance Reform3. Dancing with Presidents: A Wary Embrace4. Struggling for Primacy: From TR to FDR5. Losing Ground to the Imperial Presidency6. Living with the House of Representatives7. The Center to Which Everyone Comes8. Leadership Empowered: The Modern Era9. The Senate Investigates10. The Watchdogs11. Debate, Deliberation, and Dispute12. Dilatory Tactics13. Reform and ReactionTo the FutureNotesSelected BibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"[A] thoroughly researched book by two veteran Senate observers . . . Baker has done a superb job of combining his deep knowledge of the Senate with that of McNeil, to complete it and illuminate the evolution of the upper chamber of Congress through the efforts of the more than 1,900 peoplewho have served." --The Hill