The American Senate: An Insider's History

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9780195367614: The American Senate: An Insider's History

Winner of the Society for History in the Federal Government's George Pendleton Prize for 2013

The 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 Neil MacNeil, former chief congressional correspondent for Time magazine, integrate nearly a century 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 the presidency--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 an inquiry 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 be broadcast), 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 committee assignments. 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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About the Author:


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 was nearing completion.

Richard A. Baker was appointed the Senate's first official historian, a post he held from 1975 until his retirement in 2009. He produced a number of historical narratives, including 200 Notable Days: Senate Stories, 1787 to 2002 and Traditions of the United States Senate, and assisted Robert C. Byrd with The Senate, 1789-1989.

Review:


"This first-rate comprehensive study is likely to set the standard for historical scholarship on the US Senate. Chock-full of fascinating stores from insiders' perspectives, The American Senate is entertaining and engaging. The American Senate is a must read for any serious historian or political scientist, yet still accessible to the general public. Highly recommended." --CHOICE


"Whether discussing money and elections, campaign reform, the origins of the filibuster, the Senate's investigatory power or its role in ratifying treaties or debating the great issues of the day, the authors pack the narrative with wide-ranging information and anecdotes."
--Kirkus Reviews


"An excellent choice for history buffs and political scientists." --Library Journal


"A multidimensional study of the history, traditions and culture of the United States Senate... Whether discussing money and elections, campaign reform, the origins of the filibuster, the Senate's investigatory power or its role in ratifying treaties or debating the great issues of the day, the authors pack the narrative with wide-ranging information and anecdotes. A useful, engaging primer for anyone wishing to understand the politics, precedent and procedures that have shaped the Senate."--Kirkus Reviews


"The American Senate should be required reading for anyone new to the chamber: interns, staffers, even senators. There's unlikely to be another single volume quite as comprehensive anytime soon, a fact that can probably be attributed to the authors."
--Roll Call


"[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 people who have served." --The Hill


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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2013. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. This book explores highly charged topics that give special meaning to the U.S. Senate s life and culture. They include the decades-long struggles between the Senate and the President for control in shaping legislation; the origins and substance of the Senate seniority system; the bizarre evolution of the filibuster from an effective minority weapon into a day-to-day Senate affliction; the relatively recent emergence of the majority leader, partially in violation of longstanding chamber rules, into the Senate s most important member; and the story of the Senate s long and bitter relations with the House of Representatives, as both chambers gradually grew into parliamentary polar opposites, one to act promptly, the other to stall and delay. The current Senate is confronted with continuing and growing difficulties, a legislature in transition, as it has always been in transition. Clay, Webster, and Calhoun, the Senate s great nineteenth-century triumvirate, could hardly have recognized the place fifty years later-and certainly not now. Today, the Senate stands unmistakably at a low point within the broad historical cycles of boom and bust, growth and retrenchment, which have defined its evolution-along with that of the nation. Profiles of some of the more than 1,900 individuals who have served-statesmen, strivers, and scoundrels-illuminate this endlessly fascinating and perennially frustrating body. The judgments expressed in this volume-part narrative history, part memoir-are based on extensive research into the Senate s past and also on the direct observation by its two authors, whose combined involvement with the Senate totals more than one hundred years. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780195367614

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2013. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. This book explores highly charged topics that give special meaning to the U.S. Senate s life and culture. They include the decades-long struggles between the Senate and the President for control in shaping legislation; the origins and substance of the Senate seniority system; the bizarre evolution of the filibuster from an effective minority weapon into a day-to-day Senate affliction; the relatively recent emergence of the majority leader, partially in violation of longstanding chamber rules, into the Senate s most important member; and the story of the Senate s long and bitter relations with the House of Representatives, as both chambers gradually grew into parliamentary polar opposites, one to act promptly, the other to stall and delay. The current Senate is confronted with continuing and growing difficulties, a legislature in transition, as it has always been in transition. Clay, Webster, and Calhoun, the Senate s great nineteenth-century triumvirate, could hardly have recognized the place fifty years later-and certainly not now. Today, the Senate stands unmistakably at a low point within the broad historical cycles of boom and bust, growth and retrenchment, which have defined its evolution-along with that of the nation. Profiles of some of the more than 1,900 individuals who have served-statesmen, strivers, and scoundrels-illuminate this endlessly fascinating and perennially frustrating body. The judgments expressed in this volume-part narrative history, part memoir-are based on extensive research into the Senate s past and also on the direct observation by its two authors, whose combined involvement with the Senate totals more than one hundred years. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780195367614

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