On January 3, the U.S. Senate convened to open the 117th Congress, although the final composition of the legislature remains an open question. Millions of dollars have been funneled into the runoff elections for two senate seats from the state of Georgia that will determine control of the Senate. Meanwhile, a number of Republican legislators promise to challenge the Electoral College’s certification of Joe Biden’s election as the next president. How did U.S. end up so dysfunctional? Two free chapters from a new CQ Press book offer context for answering that.
In Congress Reconsidered, contributing authors dive into the structure, power, and role of Congress. The text, edited by Lawrence C. Dodd, Bruce I. Oppenheimer and C. Lawrence Evans, shares the latest research in congressional studies, focusing on recent trends of political polarization and analysis of the Senate and the House of Representatives. A useful resource to understanding the gravity of the current political divide, the political science-driven book provides insight into the current chaotic election landscape and how we the people can better understand it.
The first chapter, “The U.S. Senate and the Meaning of Dysfunction,” written by Evans and Wendy J. Schiller, provides an analysis of the evolving role of dysfunction in the U.S. Senate and its consequences on political decisions, legislation, and elections that have come from the upper chamber over the years.
“The troubling events of 2020 demonstrate just how critical a properly functioning Senate can be to the welfare of the nation. Taken to their extremes, partisan posturing, a disinclination to accept middle ground, and a dearth of informed public deliberation eventually could impede the country’s ability to confront dire national emergencies. And contrary to Mitch McConnell’s adage, if such a crisis of government ever occurs, the most important vote for senators may no longer be the next vote but the one they just cast,” the authors write.
In chapter two, “Lending and Reclaiming Power: Majority Leadership in the House from the 1950s to Trump,” John H. Aldrich and David W. Rohde assess the rules of governance for the House of Representatives and the changing shifts of power in the majority party. How has the House’s structure changed over time and how does that impact the majority’s ability to achieve its aims?
With the state of the Senate undetermined, the spread of misinformation by our own leaders, and challenges to democracy, the value of a political science understanding remains invaluable when regarding the future of our country in the many years to come.