CONFLICT AND COMPROMISE: How Congress Makes the Law by Ronald D. Elving

CONFLICT AND COMPROMISE: How Congress Makes the Law

Email this review


A thorough but flavorless account of the 10-year effort to enact what became the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. Elving, political editor of the Congressional Quarterly, focuses on Congress and the complex process involving individuals, folkways, lobbyists, and the changing political zeitgeist. A worthy guide, Elving provides much detail in his struggle to enliven a topic with little zing. He begins in 1984, when a federal judge nullified a California maternity-leave law, claiming that it violated federal statutes and was discriminatory toward men. Representative Howard Berman (Democrat of California), who had sponsored California's Family Leave Law of 1978 as a state legislator, resolved to secure maternity leaves through national legislation. Interestingly, the activists he helped engage -- including several feminist attorneys -- wanted leaves not only for mothers but for fathers and also for medical emergencies; they also accepted that, unlike Europeans, the American electorate wouldn't support a bill mandating paid leave. This led them to Representative Pat Schroeder (Democrat of Colorado), who sponsored the first bill in 1985. Elving traces the multiple forces and players at work, such as the orchestration of committee hearings, opposition from the National Federation of Independent Business, and support from the powerful American Association of Retired Persons. After a bill passed that Congress in 1990 was vetoed by George Bush, a compromise bill was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993. But the author observes that vital crafters like Schroeder and Representative Marge Roukema (Republican of New Jersey) were shunted aside at the signing ceremony, and the controversy du jour (Kimba Wood's botched appointment as attorney general) deflected press attention. Elving's conclusion: In the long run, Congress ""continues to adapt to the diversity and dissonance of a modern nation."" Conscientious, but as the deadly dull title suggests, destined mainly for the classroom.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0684824167
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster