THE NEW CONGRESS by Stephen Goode


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A close look at Congress and its structure, from its formation at the Constitutionai Convention where the Senate was envisioned as a curb against the ""turbulence and follies of democracy."" Throughout, Goode considers the rules and structure of the Senate and House--and the roles of the Speaker, the Rules Committee, and others--as they relate to the realities of power, both within Congress and between Congress and the President. (However, the realities of unofficial power that effect Congress from without are not examined.) Goode is strong on the erosion of Congressional power by the Imperial Presidency, which grew under every President from Roosevelt to Nixon, who carried it to contemptuous extremes. The ""new Congress"" is a result of 1970s reforms and rules-changes designed to restore the legislature's prerogatives and to regulate the behavior of individual Congressmen. Goode acknowledges at the end that ""Congress. . . still remains organized to deal with narrow problems rather than broad ones,"" and his last sentence quotes Texas Democrat George Mahon who said that what Congress needs is not more ""reform of procedures and methods, we need more reform of the will."" However, Goode's own focus on procedures and methods tends to overemphasize the learning-value of the Tonkin Gulf revelations and the likely will to resist both Presidential pressure and temptation from without. And, as Goode does not take up the broader question of who is served by Congress-special interests and lobbies get only a final page or so of notice-readers can't assess the likely effectiveness of reforms and rule changes. Nevertheless, this is solid, informative, and useful as far as it goes.

Pub Date: Nov. 3rd, 1981
Publisher: Messner