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The U.S. Congress: A Very Short Introduction (3rd edition) [#244]
The U.S. Congress: A Very Short Introduction (3rd edition) [#244]
  • Written by one of the leading authorities on the U.S. Congress
  • Approaches the subject in an informed and accessible manner, critical but not cynical
  • Uses both political science and history to examine the legislative behavior, parliamentary language, and evolution of practice in Congress
  • Provides a concise tour of a vital institution in the American political and legislative process

Donald A. Ritchie, a congressional historian for forty years , takes readers on a fascinating, behind-the-scenes tour of Capitol Hill, pointing out the key players, explaining their behavior, and translating parliamentary language into plain English. He also explores the essential necessity of compromise to accomplish anything significant in the legislative arena. However, recent events show that political polarization has hardened and produced gridlock, as Ritchie explains in this new edition. The 2020 election also produced a more diverse membership in terms of gender, ethnicity, religion, and ideology, with primary elections resulting in the defeat of moderate candidates by opponents ranging from socialists on the left to conspiracy theorists on the right, making bipartisan compromise harder to achieve.
Among the most significant events since the last edition, the Senate ignored President Obama's last nomination to the Supreme Court and then adopted a "nuclear option" to streamline future Supreme Court confirmations. The House also twice impeached President Trump, processes that starkly expose the differences between the majority-rule requirements of the House and the super-majority requirements of the Senate. This new edition explains how the parties have changed in light of the unprecedented politics of the past four years, culminating in the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and how this development has affected both the House and the Senate.


1 The great compromise
2 Campaigns and constituents
3 In committee
4 On the floor
5 Checks and balances
6 The Capitol complex
Further reading

About the author: 

Donald A. Ritchie is Historian Emeritus of the U.S. Senate. He worked for forty years at the Senate Historical Office, where he conducted an oral history program and did historical editing, such as the previously closed hearings of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy. A former president of the Oral History Association, he has also been a member of the councils of the American Historical Association and the International Oral History Association. His other books include Our Constitution, The Oxford Guide to the United States Government, Press Gallery: Congress and the Washington Correspondents, Reporting from Washington: The History of the Washington Press Corps, Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932, and The Columnist: Leaks, Lies, and Libel in Drew Pearson's Washington.

"This book will take you on a historical and political tour of the Capitol, what goes on there, and along the way you will learn the meaning of representative democracy." - Ray Smock, Director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education

Product details

ISBN : 9780197620786

Donald A. Richie
168 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
Dec 2022
Very Short Introductions
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The U.S. Congress: A Very Short Introduction (3rd edition) [#244]

The U.S. Congress: A Very Short Introduction (3rd edition) [#244]

The U.S. Congress: A Very Short Introduction (3rd edition) [#244]