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

  • Title:

    The Broken Branch
  • Hardcover ISBN:

    0195174461
  • Hardcover Dimensions:

    8.3'' x 6.5''
  • 288 Hardcover pages

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 a much-needed blueprint for change, from two experts who understand politics and revere our institutions but believe that Congress is deeply out of whack.

Mann and Ornstein 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 that propelled the 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 highly decentralized, committee-based institution into a much more centralized 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 compromised the role of Congress in our society. Indeed, Speaker Dennis Hastert has unabashedly stated that his primary responsibility is to pass the president’s legislative program. From tax cuts to the war against Saddam Hussein to a Medicare prescription drug benefit, the legislative process and oversight have been bent to serve immediate presidential interests. Strong majority leadership in Congress, the authors conclude, led not to a vigorous exertion of congressional authority, but to a general passivity in the face of executive power.

A vivid portrait of an institution that has fallen far from the aspirations of our Founding Fathers, The Broken Branch highlights the costs of a malfunctioning Congress on national policymaking, and outlines what must be done to repair the damage.

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, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He lives in Bethesda, MD.

Norman J. Ornstein is a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. An election analyst for CBS News, he writes a weekly column called "Congress Inside Out" for Roll Call. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Affairs, and he appears regularly on television programs like The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Nightline, and Charlie Rose. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He lives in Chevy Chase, MD.

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