The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track

Paperback | September 13, 2008

byThomas E. Mann, Norman J Ornstein

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Congress is the first branch of government in the American system, write Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, but now it is a broken branch, damaged by partisan bickering and internal rancor. The Broken Branch offers both a brilliant diagnosis of the cause of Congressional decline and amuch-needed blueprint for change, from two experts who understand politics and revere our institutions, but believe that Congress has become deeply dysfunctional. Mann and Ornstein, two of the nations most renowned and judicious scholars of government and politics, bring to light the historical roots of Congress's current maladies, examining 40 years of uninterrupted Democratic control of the House and the stunning midterm election victory of 1994 thatpropelled Republicans into the majority in both House and Senate. The byproduct of that long and grueling but ultimately successful Republican campaign, the authors reveal, was a weakened institution bitterly divided between the parties. They highlight the dramatic shift in Congress from a highlydecentralized, committee-based institution into a much more regimented one in which party increasingly trumps committee. The resultant changes in the policy process--the demise of regular order, the decline of deliberation, and the weakening of our system of checks and balances--have all compromisedthe role of Congress in the American Constitutional system. Indeed, Speaker Dennis Hastert has unabashedly stated that his primary responsibility is to pass the president's legislative program--identifying himself more as a lieutenant of the president than a steward of the house. From tax cuts tothe war against Saddam Hussein to a Medicare prescription drug benefit, the legislative process has been bent to serve immediate presidential interests and have often resulted in poorly crafted and stealthily passed laws. Strong majority leadership in Congress, the authors conclude, led not to avigorous exertion of congressional authority but to a general passivity in the face of executive power.

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Congress is the first branch of government in the American system, write Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, but now it is a broken branch, damaged by partisan bickering and internal rancor. The Broken Branch offers both a brilliant diagnosis of the cause of Congressional decline and amuch-needed blueprint for change, from two exper...

Thomas E. Mann is the W. Averell Harriman Chair and Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. The author of numerous books on American government, and a contributor to major magazines and newspapers like Washington Post and New York Times , he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a membe...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 5.31 × 7.91 × 0.71 inPublished:September 13, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195368711

ISBN - 13:9780195368710

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Table of Contents

Preface1. Introduction2. The First Branch of Government: Theory and Practice3. The Seeds of the Contemporary Problem, 1969-19944. A Decade of Republican Control5. Institutional Decline6. The Case of Continuity7. ConclusionNotesAcknowledgementsIndex

Editorial Reviews

"The Broken Branch...reveals their relationship with the national legislature to be much more profound than mere observation. Frankly, it's love. And they are deeply distressed by Congress's current low esteem. Urging reform at every opportunity, they seem like the loyal spouse of an alcoholic or drug addict, desperately pushing their beloved into rehab."--The New York Times Book Review "Two of the most knowledgeable congressional scholars."--washingtonpost.com "Mann and Ornstein document a litany of abuses so excruciating that their reaction to the impeachment debacle of 1998 is this: 'We didn't think they could sink any lower. We were wrong.' Examples abound. Minority Democrats are routinely given only hours to read the text of thousand-page bills before they're brought up for a vote. Conference committees are stacked exclusively with friendly members. Oversight committees lie dormant and cabinet secretaries treat congressional inquiries with open contempt. Lobbying and pork-barrel spending are at record highs."--Kevin Drum, Washington Monthly "It is easy to recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Congress, how it works and how it should work."--Robert G. Kaiser, Washington Post Book World "Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein have few peers as Congress watchers, but their affection for this very human institution drives their analyses in The Broken Branch as much as their experience. You don't have to agree with every point in their criticism to feel renewed respect for their lifetime of devotion to helping make the people's branch of government a better functioning and more constructive tribune of the public interest."--U.S. Senator John McCain "Poll afterpoll shows a dramatic decline in public esteem for the Congress. In the opinion of many Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, the institution simply does not work. Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein, two of the nation's very finest Congressional scholars, have shown in sharp, clean prose what has gone wrong and why and refreshingly suggest ways to get the First Branch of government back on track. This book is essential reading for Americans concerned about our country and our government."--Thomas S. Foley, Former Speaker of the House "The Constitution makes the legislative branch Article 1. It precedes the presidency and the judiciary by design. Today the legislative branch is too weak, too dysfunctional, and too out of touch with modern times to fulfill its constitutional duties. Mann and Ornstein understand well the glaring gap between the framers' design and today's reality. The Broken Branch is a serious step toward strengthening the Congress and moving America back toward a more stable and safer system."--Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the House "This book confirms what many of us have long known. Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann are two extremely admired and knowledgeable students of the United States Congress. It is a 'must-read' not only for Members of Congress, but for all Americans who care about the success of this vital institution of our Republic in these troubled times."--Tom Daschle, Former Senate Majority Leader "If you have ever worried about the declining influence of Congress in American political life, listen up! This timely book is for you. A first-rate, close up story of congressional problems and institutional decline...historically informed, institutionallysophisticated, told by two of Washington's best informed observers of American politics."--Richard F. Fenno, Jr., University of Rochester "For anyone wondering why they should vote out the Republicans, this book provides the answer."--The Morning Call "An important new book..."--Cox News Service