In the second in the publisher’s Fundamentals of American Government series, former Senate Majority Leader Daschle (Getting it Done, 2010, etc.) and ex-congressional staffer Robbins collaborate to explain the Senate.
The authors contrast the rules under which the two legislative branches operate to illustrate their separate functions. They explain why even without the current partisan gridlock, the House of Representatives and the Senate are frequently at odds and how this was deliberately built into the Constitution by the Founding Fathers as a way to temper direct democracy. As part of the checks and balances built into the system, the functions of the two branches are complementary. For example, the Senate bears responsibility for confirming declarations of war and treaties and for the acceptance or rejection of presidential nominations for federal office, but in the case of an Electoral College tie, it is the House that chooses the next president. The rules and traditional practices of the two branches have evolved over time but still reflect their differently perceived functions. Daschle and Robbins show how this is exemplified by the role of speaker of the house, as compared to that of the Senate majority leader. The House functions as a collective body in which majority rule prevails, and the speaker controls the agenda and floor time allowed to representatives during a debate. Senate rules guard the privileges of each senator, encouraging prolonged debate, including the filibuster, in order to achieve compromise, holds on legislation, etc. The authors cover a wide range of topics, including committee and subcommittee structure and the role played by congressional staffers in shaping legislation.
Primarily intended for high school seniors and college freshman, but also a useful primer for a broader audience interested in learning about a government institution that is suffering from record-low approval ratings.