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  • Originally published 04/13/2018

    What does the Speaker of the House do?

    Rachel Caufield

    Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House, just announced his retirement, and the race to replace him started before his announcement. What is the speaker's role? How has it changed over history?

  • Originally published 09/25/2017

    How Congress Got Filled With Future Ex-Cons

    Gil Troy

    This soft spot for rascals seems surprising in a nation founded by bluenose Puritans and virtue-obsessed Revolutionaries, but charming sinners often trump priggish saints.

  • Originally published 05/01/2017

    When Congress Made Taxes Fairer

    Bill Bradley

    With President Trump now talking about overhauling the tax code, it’s worth reflecting on the last time Congress revamped the system: the Tax Reform Act of 1986.

  • Originally published 02/28/2017

    What Calling Congress Achieves

    Kathryn Schulz

    It’s said to be the most effective way to petition the government, but does it really make a difference?

  • Originally published 05/14/2015

    Yes, Congress Has a Role in Foreign Affairs

    Kevin R. Kosar

    After Senate Republicans signed a letter to Iran critics howled that Congress was trying to usurp the president’s role in foreign policy. The critics are wrong.

  • Originally published 01/18/2015

    The Power of Congress

    Sam Tanenhaus

    Before L.B.J., progressives saw bipartisanship as a blight. What happened?

  • Originally published 01/07/2015

    Split Power is the New Normal

    Every president in the last 50 years, save Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson, has experienced at least one session of Congress in which the opposing party controlled both chambers of Congress.

  • Originally published 11/05/2014

    There Are 100 Women in Congress for the First Time Ever

    The gender breakdown of the next Congress is still to be determined, but a major milestone was reached Tuesday night: For the first time in American history, the number of women sitting in Congress will hit triple digits.

  • Originally published 03/28/2014

    My Shocking Confession: I Love Congress

    Ray Smock

    Well, former House historian Ray Smock isn't thrilled by THIS Congress, but when examined critically, the institution has had a remarkably effective 225 years of operation.

  • Originally published 02/04/2014

    The LBJ Delusion

    John Aloysius Farrell

    Why Obama can't just have his way with Congress.

  • Originally published 12/10/2013

    Beware an Unchecked President

    Jacob S. Hacker and Oona A. Hathaway

    The solution to a dysfunctional Congress is not for Obama to govern the country all by himself.

  • Originally published 07/31/2013

    Congress lawmakers plan new legislation for Latino museum

    Lawmakers are introducing new legislation in Congress to create a national Latino American history museum.Two years ago, a presidential commission called for the creation of a Smithsonian American Latino Museum. But the effort has stalled in Congress....

  • Originally published 07/10/2013

    William Lambers: The Food Law That Changed the World

    William Lambers partnered with the UN World Food Programme on the book Ending World Hunger. He is a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council. Lots of laws gets signed in Washington D.C., but how many have saved millions of lives as the one inked by President Dwight Eisenhower on July 10, 1954? It was called Public Law 480 and with a title like that you might just skip over it and read about something else. But this law has another name: Food for Peace. It was started because there was so much food in the United States, it made sense to avoid costly storage and move it overseas where there were hungry people. This meant food for flood victims in Austria, earthquake relief in Chile, and school meals for millions of children in war-torn Japan and Italy. South Korea's road to recovery from its own war also included millions of school meals for children. India received the largest Food for Peace shipment ever including a food reserve to protect against natural disasters. Food for Peace was a way to continue the amazing humanitarianism of the United States so demonstrated following World War I and II when we fought famine in dozens of countries. Food for Peace was a continuation of the the Marshall Plan which rebuilt Europe after World War II.

  • Originally published 07/03/2013

    Devil's Brigade granted top U.S. honours

    They came with kilts and bagpipes, among other Canadian military accoutrements. And now the members of the top-secret World War II unit the Devil's Brigade are leaving with something altogether astonishing -- a Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest honours the United States can bestow.Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer hailed the news in Washington today after both houses of Congress, in a rare show of bipartisanship, found two-thirds majorities required to grant the medal."We are grateful that the U.S. Congress has recognized the brave accomplishments of the First Special Service Force in World War II," Doer said in a statement."The Devil's Brigade were the first of their kind, and the legacy of bilateral defense cooperation that they inspired continues between our two countries to this day."...

  • Originally published 04/18/2013

    Ezra Klein: ‘Mad Men’ Should Make You Feel Better about Politics Today

    Ezra Klein is a columnist at the Washington Post, as well as a contributor to MSNBCThe season premiere of “Mad Men” ended with Don Draper staring at the front page of the New York Times from Jan. 1, 1968. “World Bids Adieu to a Violent Year,” reads the headline. (The Times story, by Murray Schumach, is real; you can read it here.)As in “Mad Men,” a sense of dread pervades the article. “Nations said farewell to a year of violence, tension, and economic uncertainty,” it reminds readers, who will soon discover that the new year brings even more lurid violence than the one just past. The accompanying photograph shows two people, backs to the camera, umbrellas open against a snowstorm, walking through a deserted Central Park. It’s bleak.

  • Originally published 04/18/2013

    Marie Arana: Latin America’s Go-To Hero

    Marie Arana, a journalist, novelist and adviser to the librarian of Congress, is the author, most recently, of “Bolívar: American Liberator,” and a guest columnist.Can you name an American founder whose name is shouted in the streets, whose legacy inspires fanatical worship, whose image is used to bolster ideals not his own, whose mantle is claimed by both left and right? There is no Washington party, no Jeffersonian republic. No one runs for president in Madison’s name. But in Latin America, as the Venezuelan election on Sunday reminded us, the question is easy, and the answer is Simón Bolívar.

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    Republicans critical of Obama national monuments bill amid sequester cuts

    Congressional Republicans have condemned Barack Obama for designating five new national monuments at a time when sequester funding cuts are hitting existing national parks and landmarks.Doc Hastings, the Republican chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, issued a statement on Monday criticising the president for spending at a time when the sequester has forced the cancellation of White House tours.Obama signed proclamations on Monday establishing the five new monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act."These sites honour the pioneering heroes, spectacular landscapes and rich history that have shaped our extraordinary country," Obama said. "By designating these national monuments today, we will ensure they will continue to inspire and be enjoyed by generations of Americans to come."...

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Backers of American Latino national museum push bill in Congress

    Congressional backers of a proposed Smithsonian-affiliated museum devoted to the history and culture of American Latinos didn't succeed the first time around, so they're trying again.The bipartisan bills resubmitted Friday in the U.S. House and Senate aim to designate an unused, 132-year-old Smithsonian building on the National Mall in Washington as the future site of an American Latino Museum.If passed, it would not commit the federal government to build and fund the museum. Instead, it would designate the historic Arts and Industries building as its main site, and launch a planning process by the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents to consider design and construction issues and funding....

  • Originally published 03/11/2013

    The Epic Story of the C-130, the Air Force's Monument to Pork

    Jeremiah Goulka

    Lockheed C-130E Hercules. Credit: Wiki Commons.Originally posted on TomDispatch.com When I was a kid obsessed with military aircraft, I loved Chicago's O'Hare airport. If I was lucky and scored a window seat, I might get to see a line of C-130 Hercules transport planes parked on the tarmac in front of the 928th Airlift Wing's hangars. For a precious moment on takeoff or landing, I would have a chance to stare at those giant gray beasts with their snub noses and huge propellersuntil they passed from sight.

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Congress Needs to Lead on the Budget, Not the President

    Raymond Smock

    Speaker John Boehner in front of the U.S. Capitol in late January. Credit: Flickr/SpeakerBoehner.In the political posturing and finger-pointing taking place regarding the “sequester,” the first victim is the United States Constitution. Congress has ignored its responsibility as a co-equal branch of the government. It is the House and Senate that have the power of the purse, not the president. It is the job of Congress to pass appropriations bills, which the president can either sign or veto. The president does not have the power to pick and choose those budget items he likes or dislikes. The money has to be spent, by law, the way Congress says it should be spent.

  • Originally published 02/06/2013

    What went wrong with immigration reform in 1986?

    "As President Obama and lawmakers from both parties begin to take their first tentative steps toward again rewriting the nation's immigration laws, opponents warn that they are repeating the mistakes of the 1986 act, which failed to solve the problems that it set out to address. Critics contend that the law actually contributed to making the situation worse," the Washington Post reports."An estimated 3 million to 5 million illegal immigrants were living in the United States when the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was passed. Now there are upwards of 11 million. And the question of who gets to be an American, far from being settled, has been inflamed."

  • Originally published 01/25/2013

    Aaron Blake: Why Winning Back the House is a Tough Task for Democrats

    Aaron Blake covers national politics at the Washington Post, where he writes regularly for “The Fix,” the Post’s top political blog. A Minnesota native and summa cum laude graduate of the University of Minnesota, Aaron has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal asked his fellow Republicans to shift their focus outside of Washington, D.C.  in his speech Thursday night at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting.Doing so might cheer them up a little....“The Republicans will have an advantage in partisanship in districts for a long time. That, I think, is indisputable,” said Rob Richie, the executive director of the electoral reform group Fair Vote. Of the Democrats, he said, “I think that they’re probably settling in for a long stay in the minority, unless it’s a really big year.”...

  • Originally published 01/24/2013

    Far more filibusters in recent years

    WASHINGTON — From Jimmy Stewart’s fictional all-night talkathon to real-life dramas over World War I and civil rights, the Senate’s filibuster has played a notable — sometimes reviled — role in the nation’s history. Now the slow-moving, famously deliberative chamber is on the verge of dialing it back — modestly.Filibusters are procedural delays that outnumbered lawmakers use to try killing bills and nominations. But they seldom look like the speech delivered by the exhausted, devoted senator portrayed by Stewart in the film, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”In fact, the Senate has more filibusters than ever these days. But you’d hardly know it by watching the chamber on C-SPAN television....

  • Originally published 01/06/2013

    UPDATE: Joyce Appleby backing petition to disarm the filibuster

    Joyce Appleby, emeritus professor of history at UCLA and author of "The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism," is circulating the petition posted below among historians who support filibuster reform.  (This is the second time she has championed filibuster reform. The first time was in January 2011 when she circulated this petition.)  She asks historians who wish to sign the petition to contact her at this email address: appleby@history.ucla.edu. We, the undersigned, American historians, political scientists, and legal scholars call upon our senators to restore majority rule to the United States Senate by revising the rules that now require the concurrence of 60 members before legislation be can be brought to the floor for debate.Signatories (UPDATED: 1/18/13)

  • Originally published 03/06/2018

    Our Gaslighting Geezer

    (R)evolutionary Biology

    At the end of the movie by which we gained the verb "gaslight" the villain gets his comeuppance.  Here's hoping the story of Trump ends similarly. 

  • Originally published 04/15/2017

    What’s Wrong With Iowa?

    Steve Hochstadt

    Why do the people of northwestern Iowa keep electing Steve King to Congress? It’s not because he does anything useful there. Since he was elected to Congress in 2003, he has sponsored over 100 bills and not one of them even got out of committee, even though Republicans controlled the House for most of those years. He was named the least effective member of Congress in 2015 by non-partisan InsideGov.

  • Originally published 10/20/2015

    A Speaker Who Speaks for a Few

    Steve Hochstadt

    The so-called House Freedom Caucus, representing the people who made his job so impossible that Speaker John Boehner announced that he was quitting Congress, are demanding a Speaker for themselves.

  • Originally published 05/06/2015

    Then Verne Gagne Moved!

    Jim Loewen

    The story of the fake wrestler who started out as a real one -- and the lesson historians should draw from this.